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Saturday, February 4, 2012

America, Needs Energy Independence and Jobs, Here's A Solution

        Well here is Mr. Pessimist again.  I am glad for once to say I am wrong.  Today the Dow is above where it was three years ago and the Nasdaq is higher than it has been in eleven years.  That is clear back before Bush took office.  Jobs are up and while the housing market may not have hit bottom some trends show signs of improvement.  There is a trend toward multi-generational housing.  That is not all bad as it may help America return to the values it had in earlier generations.  If you have ever driven the back roads of New England you often see rambling built on and extended frame homes.  Especially in the country.  They are houses that were extended to meet generational needs.  Today many of them are Bed& Breakfasts.  While those facts are  nice my goal is to put out a plan that will create jobs nationwide and also conserve energy.  So what is my expertise that qualifies me to  make such a proposal.  I spent thirty years in transportation.  Part of it hauling produce.  Being married to an X-migrant worker I have seen the produce industry from several sides.  As a business owner(trucking) I had opportunity on many occasions to talk to other business owners.  I watched a man who had years of experience at farming fail when he tried to enter the produce business.  A big part of the reason for his failure was the high cost of energy to heat the greenhouses.  They hired Mexicans, but many of the Mexican families no longer follow the crops.  They are getting out of the fields. In my wife's family all thirteen kids left the fields. Three went to college, four went into factories and some work in other administrative type jobs.  With all that being said here is the idea.
     At present most of the produce that goes to markets on the east coast and New England states, especially in the off seasons up north, comes out of Florida, California and Mexico.   All of these suppliers are thousands of miles from the markets they are serving.  It does not have to be that way.  There are hundreds of power plants all through the Midwest and North Eastern states.  They all have abundant supplies of energy that they burn to generate energy.  The waste product, "heat" goes up the chimney and is wasted.  To power companies the heat is simply a by product.   With very slight modification the power plants could capture much of that energy.  It could then be used to heat greenhouses built in proximity to their power plants.  This helps in several ways. First thousands of trucks do not need to run clear across America just to deliver some produce.  Each truck running from California to say New York City burns between 500 and 600 gallons per truck.  You multiply that times the thousands of trucks that are making the trip daily.  You are talking millions and millions of gallons annually.  There are hundreds of intermediate markets that need serviced also.  Look at a map.  All those cities represent people that need to eat.  Building thousands of greenhouses across the country shortens the supply lines and creates local job.  The technology is available and the engineering modifications required are minimal.  The energy and cost savings to America would be immense.  It would make a major stride in moving toward energy independence.  It would create jobs upgrading the plants, jobs building and maintaining the greenhouses, jobs for workers to grow the plants, pack and ship them to local markets.
     Another benefit is that it would lessen the wear and tear on America's highways, bridges and other infrastructure.  It would not eliminate trucking jobs.  It would change the types of jobs.  The main impact would be on the economies of already hurting states like Florida, California and Texas.  These changes could be offset with some business changes.  Not all plants and produce would adapt to the changes.  However enough would to make it worth while.  There are plants that take mass acreage to grow like watermelons and cantaloupes,  also products like citrus that would not work with a greenhouse operation.  Over time with development even some of the need for those product might be met.
     What would it take to get this program in gear.  How about the President calling a meeting of all the major power distributors in America.  He could lay out the plan and ask what kind of tax breaks they would need to get this going.  The upside is that it could be done by private industry and not with government money.  It might require changing some regulations and securing some land near the power plants.  It will also take developing teams to run the greenhouses and market the produce effectively.  It is all doable with technology that is out there right.  It mainly takes committing and doing it.  It is not pie in the sky, it is real jobs and it is available right now.  With proper motivation the first greenhouses could be in business for the fall season.
    Oh yeah I almost forgot.  One other possible benefit is a reduction in cost, because of the shorter supply lines required to get stuff  to market.  It is also tactically a good idea.  If major earthquakes hit the west coast or the New Madrid fault in Missouri and takes out the bridges or highways.  The shortages in the east would be almost immediate.

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