After all, “green” is hardly the color of the sky/air (blue) for which protections are sought, nor the hue of unsullied water in the rivers (reddish brown, at least in these parts). Heck, quite often “green” building materials come from neither plants nor trees. Solar is yellowish, fossil fuels tend to be black, wind is invisible. “Green” makes no sense at all for the full scope of this major evolving thrust in the economy.
It also increasingly tends to cause knee-jerk reactions as it has become a “trigger word” for both support and opposition to anything branded as “green,” sometimes with a rather unthinking mindlessness. Besides, color-tag shorthand is too easy to twist upon itself. Remember the anti-Commie days and bumper stickers reading “Better dead than Red”? Pretty soon, expect the appearance of “Better dead than Green” because some emotions run high, particularly when “taxpayer money” is involved.
A BIT OF THAT was obvious the other day when it was announced that the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority would get a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to use “green materials and technology” for new public housing at Willingham Village.
This was actually quite a big deal, part of $300 million in federal money being made available to the best projects, selected competitively, to actually start using such energy-saving approaches in construction in a major way. Testing what works — and what doesn’t — is a key aspect of developing the “green economy” that’s coming. Maybe “green” is supposed to mean the color of U.S. dollars — although perhaps it should be renamed the “salmon economy.” That’s the color of the Chinese yuan and, at the moment, that nation is threatening to take over on-the-ground development of this approach.
No doubt many locally instantly did the math, made easy by being able to divide 10 into 1,700,000. What?! Each “apartment” is going to cost $170,000? In these parts, using the “old technology,” one could probably build a four-bedroom, three-bath stand-alone house for that on an acre lot.
No doubt true, but also a very simplistic view.
GREEN HOUSING — let’s call it “smart,” a far better description — currently costs more because it is as yet in the “custom built” stage. Architects/engineers and skilled workmen are few, construction materials relatively pricey because of development costs and lack of competition.
Not only that but, with the private sector currently somewhat moribund, getting this approach tested on a large scale — public housing and private subdivisions, new courthouses and office/retail structures — requires government action so what works, what doesn’t and, most importantly, what works best can be determined. Then, if successful, the Henry Fords can later take over and build the new Model Ts. That’s why “tax money” is similarly going into developing fuel-efficient/alternate energy motors as well — and magnetic levitation rail lines, as also currently under study locally.
While everyone has at least a vague grasp that the intention is to “save resources” and “reduce pollution” most actually have little understanding, environmentalists included, that this is actually a financial investment — for everyone, not just the entrepreneurs involved. There’s more “capitalism” involved in this than there is “do-gooder.”
LET’S ASSUME this works, and there are many “experiments” going on both nationally and worldwide. Even if more costly “up front,” as with those 10 apartments in Greater Rome, the back-end dividends could more than make up for it.
While this search for a better way applies for most everyday essential items of today (housing, mobility), let’s just look at those $170,000 public housing units.
Suppose the savings in electricity, heat, air-conditioning, water usage chop costs by 50 percent from levels in “traditional units.” That saves a lot of future tax money, of course, but transfer the construction technology to one of those four-bedroom places on an acre lot.
It would be, by contemporary standards, as though your home were paying you “interest” every month to help offset the bank’s interest on the mortgage. Suppose your “cost of living” for owning a home were going to be two or three hundred dollars a month less? How much more house would you be able to buy to begin with? How much more comfortable would family finances be?
There’s no guarantee that this will be the result, of course, no more so than a French inventor’s car that runs on compressed air will work in mass use. Or that a passenger car painted with a coating of solar film could eliminate gasoline and leave the world’s oil for heavy-duty stuff, like operating 16-wheelers, locomotives and ships.
HOWEVER, IT IS all worth a shot and is no more some wild dream than, say, the telephone or the television set once were.
The so-called “green” aspects are actually secondary benefits. The “smart” aspects are the potential for more money in everybody’s pocket.