Could bloggers be fee-d out of business?

An article posted today on the Philadelphia citipaper website presents a sobering and disquieting story about bloggers in the city of Brotherly Love being required to pay $300 for a business license in order to legally operate their blog. And that’s even if they don’t make any money from it!

Should this become a trend – for cash-strapped cities to want their “fair share” of this generally unlucretive venue – bloggers will be faced with perhaps their most challenging issue yet – pay and blog or find another avenue of self-expression. Let’s hope that with the already challenging economy and accompanying challenges so many of us face that this is merely a “blip” on the radar screen.

Apples to Apples: Solar and Wind less costly than Coal and Oil

The following is a guest blog by Tom Rooney of SPGsolar. 

CoalEveryone knows solar and wind power are more expensive than oil and coal.

Everyone except the National Academy of Sciences.

So they put it to the test: They found coal and oil and natural gas are artificially cheap because they impose health and financial and environmental costs that all of us pay for — above and beyond the price. Whether we know it or not.

Whether we like it or not.

Sounds kind of like a subsidy, doesn’t it? It’s exactly like a subsidy.

Apples to apples? Solar and wind are often less expensive than coal and oil.

The Academy estimates that coal and oil drain $130 billion in hidden costs out of our economy. Coal is subsidized to the tune of 3 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour of energy – about 25 to 100 percent of what you pay for power.

The report comes just in time — right after the biggest energy disaster in this country’s history.

And right before a campaign to reduce support for alternative energy which some say requires subsidies and is more expensive than fossil fuels.

Coal and oilPeople like Republican functionary Christopher Horner, whose new book proclaims that renewable energy will “bankrupt” this country and is a “declaration of war against America’s most reliable sources of energy—coal, oil, and natural gas.”

Or the usually reliable Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore, who says renewable energy such as wind and solar is a plot between Big Government and Big Labor.

Before I became a card carrying member of this conspiracy and the CEO of a solar energy company, I studied for an MBA at the University of Chicago. There I was lucky enough, on many occasions, to meet the inspiration for many solar skeptics – America’s greatest economist Milton Friedman.

More than just a libertarian icon, Friedman just wanted to know what things cost. Not their price, their cost.

You do not need a Nobel Prize to see the freshman mistake of those who say wind and solar are too expensive to compete with coal and oil: They confuse price with cost.

But still we hear that coal and oil and natural gas are cheaper. Which is like the guy who throws garbage over his neighbor’s fence, then brags about free trash disposal. But really, someone else is paying for it.

The Academy said it was too complicated to estimate the largest hidden cost of energy — the price we pay in sending our best and bravest into harm’s way to guarantee our supply of foreign oil.

You want to put a price tag on that? Go ahead. Just make sure the number starts with a T. And if you throw your garbage over the fence, count that too.

—- Tom Rooney is the CEO of SPG Solar (SPGsolar.com).

Website helps schools (and teachers) help kids

Alcott7_Jan2009In this economy, everyone’s belt tightening. Education’s been squeezed to a choking point, with teachers getting creative to find resources for students.

In 2007, teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses totaled $1,7 billion a year. Nationally, the the average teacher spends around $500 out of pocket annually. An American Federation of Teachers survey found that out of 4,618 teachers, first-year teachers personally spent about $700 for students’ school supplies.

Any other employee in a company doesn’t do that, says Jerry Hall, Executive Director of iLoveSchools.com, which matches teachers, schools and school districts with individual, group and corporate donors.

 

iLoveSchools.com - an excellent resource for classrooms

iLoveSchools.com - an excellent resource for classrooms

They’re the only national website that handles new, used & in-kind stuff, he says. “In-kind” means anything a teacher wants – from a speaker for their class to business services.

 

iLoveSchools serves any place that teaches kids, running the gamut from pre-school, K-12, public, private, charter or home schools, even juvenile halls and detention centers. Similar organizations only serve public schools.

To match donors and “stuff”, teachers, schools and/or districts register online. So far over 35,000 teachers across the country have registered.

Next they build a Wish List on the website for whatever’s wanted and needed at BuildaWishList. Teachers have the option to shop iLoveSchools’ catalog which currently has over 150,000 educational products, with more coming soon. If they find things they want, they add to their Wish List. If not, they can build a custom Wish List where they can request new and gently-used items or in-kind services. These can include anything from money for a field trip to business services. They’ll then receive a customized, unique web home page at a permanent iLoveSchools.com web address.
They also get widgets, banners, logos and text links to use to help promote their home page on their district’s website, in newsletters and in email announcements.

 

On the donor side, donors can sign up to “Become a Classroom Friend”, creating a webpage and posting why they want to help. 

 

Central Elementary School benefits from generous donors

Central Elementary School benefits from generous donors

The Donor Offer Board lets donors post things they want to give. The posts end up resembling craigslist ads, covering things like business equipment that’s cycled out every few years but still in good condition or time they can give.

 

Donors wanting a more “hands-on” feel can go to their search engine and narrow their search down to specific school districts and special criteria schools and/or teachers must meet. Donors can look up teachers online and contact them directly.They can direct their giving to the type of teacher they want to serve while teachers can log in and see things that they’re specifically qualified for.

“People want to have control of where their donation goes,” said Hall, “and how much the non-profit uses for administrative costs.” With iLoveSchools, they can spell it out.

This service is for individuals, small companies and large corporations who want to donate. Lexmark donated almost-new printers they were getting rid of. Last year, the Obama campaign donated office furniture and equipment. All these would otherwise have ended up in landfills.

“We want to challenge people to think of the different ways they can use our site,” said Hall. The PTA can have a free Wish List where teachers can register, then dole out things on an equitable basis. A district can register, then post donor offers, being “an internal sharing resource for the district,” he said. If a district’s well-off, they can offer things to a sister district that isn’t. Companies can use it to help show they support their local schools. It’s a win all around.

Hall believes there’s a lot of stuff consumers have that’s reusable by teachers. If we look, our garages and closets are full of them.

There are people all over the country right now that are asking for resources, he said.

Consider getting involved with this. It’s an easy way to make a real difference.

Greening A City Creates Economic Rewards

San Jose, California is a town with a strong history of innovation and environmental leadership. After 2001’s infamous dot.com bust, the city experienced a severe economic downturn. Since then, they’ve essentially re-invented themselves, uniquely marrying their economic development with bold environmental programs.

They have created programs and policies they hope will be emulated world-wide.

“If we’re going to transform where we work and play, we have to transform the way our economy works,” said Collin O’Mara, Clean Technical Strategist for the City of San Jose.

The city has had sustainability as a principal tenet for twenty years. Going beyond your average recycling program, in 2007 the City Council adopted their 15-year Green Vision Program. This ambitious sustainability program encompasses 10 major goals, including creating 25,000 “green” jobs, utilizing only recycled water city-wide and mandating all public vehicles ran on alternative fuel.

For more on these goals and their economic resurgence, see Part 2.