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Hybrids and Public Financing
Perhaps I am rapt with political musings on the eve of this election. But
the fascinating exchanges today on hybrid vehicles and public P2 financing
have inspired me to think about an issue common to both topics: the role of
government in promoting P2.
Bob Pojasek advances excellent arguments (as usual) about companies
utilizing a "systems approach" to P2 to bring about real changes in an
organization. But he questions the value of publicly-financed loan programs
to pay for capital investments in "technological fixes," implying first that
the "systems approach" and P2 loans are mutually exclusive, and second, that
these loan programs only fund prescribed investments.
I do not believe that P2 loans necessarily preclude a "systems approach."
When I conducted P2 assessments for my former employer, the Montana P2
Program, I vigorously promoted the systems approach (based largely, it is
important to say, on the sagacious writings and teachings of Mr. Pojasek
himself). In two memorable cases, I heard back from companies after the
visits that they had decided to utilize the Montana P2 Loan program to
finance projects or equipment that they discovered on their own (i.e., that
weren't among my recommendations - and certainly weren't "forced" upon them).
The Pennsylvania DEP last year introduced the P2 and Energy Efficiency (E2)
Site Assessment Grant Program through which companies can receive grants to
cover 80% (up to $15K) of the cost of hiring a consultant to conduct a P2E2
assessment. It's a nice companion program to their P2 Assistance Account
(loan program) since the assessment could reveal opportunities which could
then be financed with a P2 loan. The program does not prescribe the
technology, other than it be justifiably P2. (Incidentally, I was honored to
be able to help develop and deliver the workshops to train the consultants
under this Program, so I can assure you that we emphasized the "systems
As evinced by the responses to this thread today, not all companies may be
interested in these loans. But there are examples in which it has been
successfully utilized and implemented (thanks Sharon Goble for the MI
examples). And the good news for those concerned with public support of P2
loan programs is that the money (to buy down the interest rate) is only
committed for REAL projects. I'm all for supporting P2 education, but I'm
even happier knowing my tax dollars support purchase of P2 equipment that
leads to actual reductions in pollution or increases in efficiency.
And what if the company that installed that equipment gets excited by the
savings and goes nuts seeking more P2 opps? Bonus.
The point is that these P2 loan programs can serve an important role
creating incentives for companies to adopt P2. They are also yet another
tool P2 providers can use to amplify their message, reaching perhaps a
thousand, or a hundred, or a dozen, or even just a couple more companies
than would have heard that message otherwise.
In a perfect world we wouldn't need these kinds of incentives, because
companies would discover the beauty of P2 on their own. (Some have,
granted). But the world isn't perfect, or else we'd all be driving electric
or other low/zero emission vehicles. That's why as a society we have decided
to erect incentive programs, like the one in Arizona that my mom took
advantage of to buy a natural-compressed-gas Honda, thereby greatly reducing
her contribution to smog compared to conventional fuels. The goal (as with
any incentive program) is simply to provide the initial hook to attract
people to an idea or paradigm that they are subsequently likely to adopt on
its own merits.
Incidentally, for those of you who don't know, there's a dark, ignominious
side of the AZ Alternative Fuels Program, in which some people have
shamelessly and deliberately misused it. They're buying enormous,
gas-guzzling SUVs, and installing token, 2-gallon alt. fuel tanks
(cost-paid) - which they have no intention of using - to get the 30%
purchase price rebate. Costs to the state are approaching $500 mil; budget
was for $3 mil.
Lesson? We still have a long way to go on basic morality, nevermind
pollution prevention. Oh, and don't forget to vote...
Toxics Use Reduction Institute
Pinanski Hall 302
One University Avenue
Lowell, MA 01854-2866