Economy is coming back

The US economy is definitely coming back and it will be interesting to see how that affects environmental issues. The unemployment rate is coming down and we see things like new car sales steadily improving. In November, the automakers reported great sales results, and that was particularly true of the Big Three. With GM, Ford and Chrysler doing well, that has a ripple effect throughout the entire economy. Suppliers get busy, more workers work, and then that translates into more consumer activity.

For environmentalists, this will change the conversation if it continues. During a recession, it becomes harder to deal with issues like global warming, pollution and conservation as people are worried about jobs. Green energy investments should be a priority, but some fight them and argue we should focus on things like oil pipelines. If the economy improves, it makes it easier to argue for longer term investments that can help the environment.

The car industry offers an interesting example. Surprisingly, the Obama administration was able to push through tougher fuel economy standards even during a recession. High gas prices definitely helped. But car sales were slow as people flocked to used cars, as you can see from high used car prices in 2011 that were also tied to tight supplies. And that’s one reason new car sales are now doing well. The economy is getting better so more people are looking, but new cars are more competitive with high used car prices. Also, people get more for their trade-ins, so that used Peugeot 206 can get a great price on a trade-in.

The auto recovery is leading a broader economic rebound, so get ready to reset the environmental discussions.

Cutting real estate costs with solar

One of the more interesting trends in solar involves companies that will install solar panels on residential or commercial real estate with little or no upfront costs to the owner. How can they do that? The idea is simple – you have a situation where the combination of subsidies and the solar power will significantly reduce an owner’s electricity bills. The savings stream can then be used to pay off the costs of the solar panel upgrades.

The plunging costs of solar power are making this trend even more powerful. There is some controversy, as some suspect that the Chinese are dumping panels in the US below cost, so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues on this pace, but either way prices will keep coming down. It’s just a matter of how fast.

Many businesses and consumers are catching on, though again it remains to be seen as to how fast these systems will be implemented. For many, this becomes a real investment opportunity that changes the calculation around certain real estate investments. If you’re looking for investment property, you of course want every advantage you can think of. Every cost saving needs to be considered. Of course you’ll be looking for a bmv investment as you want to save on the initial purchase price, but ancillary costs matter as well. Energy savings should get thorough investigation. This also applies if you’re seeking overseas properties, as many countries are jumping on the renewable energy bandwagon.

The bottom line is that solar power and other renewables will grow even faster when there are economic incentives. And those that see the incentives and their applications first can make profits by acting on them.

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