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Oct 03

Just a Bunch of Wind!

Just a bunch of wind …  maybe. Not really sure if it is cost-effective, but the wind farm in White County, Ind., is sure impressive if nothing else. You see, I traveled back and forth from Chicago to Louisville, Ky., a week or so ago and on my way down, I passed through a section of White County … I guess it was about 50 miles north of Indianapolis … and I was so impressed by what I saw that I had to stop, get my camera out and take a picture. As far as the eye could see there were wind turbine towers and every one of them was spinning and in theory at least, generating electricity without the use of fossil fuels or nuclear reactors. What a sight! On my way to Louisville, I passed them in daylight but on my return trip, it was well after sunset and each turbine had a flashing red light affixed to the top of it. As far into the night as my eyes could see, there they were … hundreds of red lights all flashing off and on in unison. Quite a sight and I understand that there are even bigger wind farms in Wisconsin and Texas than this one in White County, Ind.

But a couple of days ago, I heard a radio commentator say that these turbines are not cost-effective. I guess unless the government subsidizes the cost of them by paying a per kilowatt produced payment to the operators of these wind farms, they would all be shut down. Further, it was stated that the subsidy runs out early next year and that there is no early indication as to what may or may not happen here. The turbines may be turned off.

But here’s the thing, and I will apologize in advance for jumping up on the soapbox on this one, but I have a problem with the wind energy subsidy thing. You see, I spent more than 40 years in the glass and architectural aluminum field and during that period of time, a large number of truly dynamic, energy conserving products and methodologies were created, tested, modified, retested and ultimately brought to market. These products had a dramatic impact on energy conservation while also creating higher levels of human comfort and security. Many of them were aesthetically pleasing as well. And to the best of my knowledge, none of them were tied to government subsidies. They were developed and marketed because they made sense … the better mouse trap phenomena if you will.

As far as the eye could see!

Now I’m not against the government issuing grants and providing funding for research and development programs, but to my way of thinking, sometimes the government goes too far. For instance, why should the creative entrepreneur care about farther enhancements and advancements to any given product if the government is willing to pay him or her for what they have already developed even if it is not an economically viable product? Last thing on this … I point to the cost to produce the Chevy Volt, which I really had an interest in buying at one point. Big subsidies here for a car that is not economically viable. The government poured millions into the development of the Volt. But the Volt’s competitors seem to have produced a decent car with better performance at a lower cost … without much if any subsidies of any kind. And they are outselling the Volt by a wide margin. Does any of this make sense???

The College Education Thing

I probably won’t bring this (the College Education matter) up again but after one of my recent comments about college education and it’s cost vs. value, a reader sent me a copy of an article that appeared in the USA Today issue from September 27, 2012, which dealt with the increasing burden of student loans for those going to college these days. What was most “eye-catching” to me was the fact that in 1989 (the year I completed my graduate degree), the average student debt amount was $9,634 and 9 percent of all American households were paying off some form of a student loan. As of 2010, the average amount a student owes is $26,682 and 19 percent of all American households are dealing with these types of loans. At the same time that overall household debt has seen a small but meaningful decline, student indebtedness continues to rise dramatically and in households headed by someone younger than 35, over 40 percent owe student debt. I found this quite interesting and timely because I just read a few days ago that young adults have stopped buying new cars. The single biggest customer group that has stayed away from the new car showrooms over the past three years are people that have traditionally bought new cars when they get out of school, start their careers and so forth … the group between 20-30 years of age. Do you think these two stories are related? Is it hard to make car payments when you are still paying thousands of dollars on your student loan? Just wondering???

The Sports Thing

Yes, I am disappointed. How could I not be? My beloved Chicago White Sox spent 118 days of this year’s baseball season in first place and then lost 10 of their last 12 games. Thus, the Tigers of Detroit, who from time to time have had their own problems winning late in the season, passed my Sox and clinched first place in the American League Central Division less than 48 hours ago and in doing so, knocked my Sox out of the playoffs. OUCH!!!

I don’t really follow professional golfing. I don’t have anything against golfing and gave it a try about 15 years or so ago but I never really got into it. So the Ryder Cup meltdown by Team USA was not as big a deal to me as it was to others. But no matter how you slice it, seems to me you really have to hand it to the European team. They never quit … never gave up … just kept coming and pulled it out in the end. Great story actually and thanks to my European friends for not rubbing it in … too much!

Okay … so I had breakfast with a couple of guys this morning and one of them claims to have some insider knowledge regarding the NHL (hockey) lockout situation and here is what he said. The season will start with the Winter Classic and not a game sooner. His sources tell him that 75 percent of hockey revenue comes from the second half of the season and the playoffs. The owners, according to my guy’s guy’s guy, are better off financially to only pay for half a season while collecting three quarters of the season’s revenues. Interesting perspective. I guess we’ll see how much my guy’s guy’s guy really knows … won’t we??

The Quotable Thing

This quote was given to me by an attendee at Auto Glass Week™ in Louisville, which wrapped up about nine days ago. I didn’t catch the guy’s name. He just came up to me and said that he, like me, appreciated meaningful and insightful quotations and wanted to give me one of his favorite business management-related quotations. I didn’t get his name. He said it came from Peter Drucker and I am 99 percent sure he is correct. It’s a timely quote and goes like this …

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

HAVE A GREAT WEEK, EVERYBODY!!!

4 comments

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  1. Earnest Thompson

    You covered the landscape this week and I’m not sure what item to comment on to let you know that your audience is paying attention. So maybe I’ll just send you a Detroit Tigers hat for those chilly autumn winds in the Windy City. (I could send a SF Giants hat but that would just be cruel to a Cubs fan).

    1. Lyle R. Hill

      Earnest … always good to hear from you and now that my Sox are history (for this season anyway), I want you to know that I am officially becoming a Tigers fan…for the rest of this year. By the way, do those wonderful people in Michigan that you rub elbows with every day know that you are at heart, a Giants fan??? Lyle

  2. Mark Imbrock

    Preaching to the choir on the wind turbine theory Lyle. I am an avid supporter of alternative energy solutions, and any new product developments for that matter. It’s what I do for a living at EDTM. However if a technology can not stand on its own and be financially viable, or have a pathway to become financially viable, there should be no grants or subsidies issued. There are many instruments our company develops that are truly beneficial to the glass and window industry. If we don’t think they will be financially viable, then they do not get developed or launched. Why should the alternative energy market be any different.

    Sorry about your Sox end of season. It could be worse. . . you could be a Red Sox fan like myself.

  3. Lyle R. Hill

    Thanks Mark. Your comments are appreciated and yes indeed, you guys at EDTM do produce some mighty fine products. I know this first hand. As for your Red Sox, it was a tough year but the collapse of the White Sox in just two short weeks was devastating. Always next year though! Lyle

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