Point of View
Uncertainty, LEED and Environmentally Friendly
By John Van Horn
I have been talking to a lot of CEOs recently, asking about their business and pitching some new ideas. A couple of the ideas involve reaching out to new markets and, thus, most likely increasing staff.
If I talk with them about existing marketing efforts (trade shows, Internet, etc.), most are excited and seem to want to increase their participation. However, when it comes to new ideas (international, different market segments, tangential approaches, etc.), they demur.
I note to them that they are willing to expand where they currently operate but not into new ventures, I get the same answers: “We don’t know what is happening with the economy, and we aren’t willing to take a risk where the unknowns are so great.”
Think about it this way. A lot of companies have a lot of cash. They are running their businesses conservatively because they fear the unknown. Not the unknown of their market, or their product, or their customers, but the unknown that is their government.
Will taxes go up? Will the new tax rates be the same for years or will they go up again? What about the mandates on health care? How will they work? After all, the law is only 20,000 pages long. Who can understand it?
What about regulation? Every aspect of our lives is being reviewed? We are being told which light bulb to use and how much salt to put in our salads. Our government has told us that its policy is to raise energy rates as high as possible. How can a company plan an expansion if they don’t know what “possible” is?
So these CEOs are lying in the weeds. They keep their companies profitable, innovate where it costs them little, try to do more with less, and pass on that new expansion (for now).
I’m told that if the costs were certain, there would be no problem. The CEOs would simply factor in the new taxes, the new regulations, the new controls and get on with it. However, every day they see new government spending that takes money out of the economy; they see new regulations that may or may not affect that new product, export or service; they see laws passed that have never even been read.
Most of the regulation that affects business today comes from sources that have no legislative control. You elect a senator or representative, but the rules come from appointed “czars” who answer to no one. They are appointed and never see a congressional hearing. But they regulate just the same.
It’s ironic that government itself is feeling some of this uncertainty. It used to be that when you had a government job, you had a job for life. You had a good salary, excellent benefits, and a pension that most likely equaled or exceeded your salary. Not any more. The money has run out, at least at the state level. Bureaucrats are looking over their shoulders. Cuts are happening everywhere. What used to be certain, no longer is.
However, at the federal level, hiring never stops. Spending goes on as long as the printing presses are allowed to run. The best place to find a job (except Texas) is Washington, DC. And the people who actually create wealth, who create real jobs, who pay the taxes are left wondering what to do.
I shake my head. I listen and understand.
Who would build a house if they weren’t sure the land belonged to them, or that it couldn’t be taken away by fiat, or what was going to be built next door?
Who would hire people if they didn’t know what the new employee was going to cost or whether they could fire them if they did a bad job?
Who would build a factory if they didn’t know whether or not the government would come and tell them they had to move it somewhere else?
I’m sure I wouldn’t. It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s the uncertainty.
I think we are about to go round the bend. I read a commentary on the online Nashua (NH) Telegraph, by Staff Writer David Brooks, that tells of a new local liquor store that has posted signs restricting parking in front to “LEV/Hybrid Vehicles Only.”
But wait – there is no law in New Hampshire allowing such a restriction. But then – it’s OK since it’s “private property,” and although they cannot issue a citation (as with a handicapped space), they can tow your car.
How did all this come about? Is the state liquor commission – the stores are state-owned – going all green on us? Well, sort of.
It seems that the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification takes parking spaces into consideration. So if a building wants to be LEED-certified, having spaces for hybrid vehicles gives them points toward certification. The restrictions are not enforceable, but they make the building owners feel good.
So what we have here is a non-governmental group, flexing its power to push building owners into restricting parking. What’s next? The president’s wife telling us what we can and can’t eat or drink? Oh, yes, that’s already happening.
I love the last few paragraphs from Brooks’ commentary:
Preferred parking for hybrid vehicles is spreading because of LEED standards, as well as the desire of some companies … to urge conversation (and look “green” in the process).
As the driver of a hybrid car, I approve. Not everybody does, though.
These signs are more controversial than preferred parking for pregnant women, because climate change is more contentious than motherhood. There is lots of argument online about them, and in at least one case – a Connecticut library – the signs were removed after people complained.
Here in Nashua, that “LEV” designation doesn’t help. I thought it meant “light electric vehicle,” which is basically a souped-up golf cart, but it actually means “low-emission vehicle,” and includes a long list of specially sanctioned high-mileage or alternative-fuel cars.
Since normal human beings don’t know what an LEV is, that dilutes the public pressure. …
I got this from a correspondent:
What’s more “environmentally friendly”?
1. 15 employees each driving to work in their hybrid cars, or
2. 15 employees carpooling together in 5 SUV’s?
It’s not about the vehicle; it’s about the number of miles. I haven’t put more than 10,000 miles on my SUV in any of the past 6 years, and I’ll bet the car lasts me another 8 to 10 years. I’ve got friends in “low” emissions vehicles putting 20-30,000 miles on their cars every year. They consume more gas, generate more emissions and create more congestion than I do, but I’m the one accused of driving the “gas guzzler that’s destroying our environment.”
Article Abstract from September, 2011