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And Then There Were Two

Yes, it finally happened. We’re down to two in the race. The others have dropped out, the final holdout brushed aside and the main event begins.

Of course I’m talking about the NBA finals. Great east-west rivalry with two teams that have very different DNA and gameplans. Sounds a bit like the Presidential race, but whatever your "home team", let me offer some advice to the next President no matter whose jersey he wears.

Score some quick points for the economy by tackling energy efficiency and an alternative to oil in your first week on the job. Lots of experience in California and a growing number of states that are taking up the climate change challenge has shown that energy efficiency measures are cheap and pay themselves back in 18-36 months.

Create a pool of capital so businesses can rapidly retrofit inefficient old lighting, HVAC, printers, copiers, and other energy hogs. Get paid back from the savings, after which the businesses will be saving up to 50% of their energy bills. It costs the country very little (I would make these interest-free loans, so there would be some cost to put the money into the market and manage the project, but at today’s low interest rates, even Uncle Sam can afford this!).

If the next President uses the fund to force every government installation - - including all military installations - - to become more energy efficient also, the program will pay for itself by the energy savings realized by the feds themselves. The bonus benefit here is the jobs created doing the retrofits and selling more efficient equipment and appliances.

Then ask Congress to suspend the $100 billion/year tax breaks given to oil companies for just 3 years. Who knows, maybe even the oil companies won’t squawk if they know it’s only 1% of their wealth (OK, they’ll squawk, but the public will love this). Put out a giant Request For Proposals for US companies to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations across America (the American Petroleum Institute said it would cost $140 billion, although the Rocky Mountain Institute quotes a much lower figure). More domestic jobs.

Use the other $160 billion to hire US companies to convert trucks, buses, trains, and even family cars to run on hydrogen. We already make 3 trillion cubic feet of hydrogen in this country every year, most of which is used to strip sulfur from oil to make gasoline - - instead of simply putting the hydrogen in our vehicles. It’s time to cut out the middle man.

So, Mr. President, you will turn around the economy in a hurry, end our hostage crisis (yes, we’re captive to the Middle East and other oil producers), clean up the air and solve climate change all at once.

Not bad for a first week’s work or, as some might say, a "slam dunk".