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Future Of Glass Must Be A Green One

Aug 17, 2007
Like the case of safety, insulated, and low-e glasses, government law mandates most effective use of product acceptance. Unfortunately, the stagnant growth of wage roll employees and pandering politicians in developed economies are inspiring outcries of protectionism from globalization.

Certainly the most affected segment of the population is those with limited skills and tenure. However, public policies addressing the advantages to adding millions of consumers and disadvantaged people in poverty and terrorist regions far outweigh the shortcomings. This issue should be focused on retraining.

If you go green, what will it look like? Will it be solar? Will it be clean coal? Will it be ethanol or biodiesel? Are government subsidies required to supplement technology to make it economical to develop? How fickle is the public to taxation to promote subsidies? In the U.S., clean energy is gobbling up 10 percent of America's venture capital. It is estimated that investment into this activity has doubled between 2004 and 2006 to $63 billion.

As an example, a detailed analysis on the real cost of gasoline, done by the International Center of Technology Assessment, estimates the indirect costs of subsidies, tax breaks, depletion allowances, security costs, climate change, and health care costs of treating respiratory illnesses amounts to about $9 per gallon - in addition to the current price of $3 to $6 in world prices. This additional cost to the state could be offset by a significant reduction in individual tax rates instead of being spent on excessive social and medical programs.

Currently almost all clean energy relies on government subsidies to make it competitive with fossil fuels. Therefore voters pay either way in direct subsidies or higher prices. Unfortunately, government subsidies are an unstable foundation on which to build a business since politicians are a vacillating lot.

This is especially true because people look at green products and technology as a bonus with bragging rights for owners.

But these same people are less willing to pay the difference in price since future savings is a non-starter. This tendency will change, of course, as energy prices rise and the price of technology falls. The cost of generating wind power, for example, has come down to less than half per kwh.

The first solar powered cells were over 65 times more expensive than they are today. While people may see a three-year payback, they can't see beyond the benefits because people in the U.S. frequently move every five to seven years. Convincing data is not enough since final decisions are wallet driven. Even with the law of diminishing returns consumers will have a pecking order of upgrades that they are willing to pay for because green is still the color of money.

The price of oil hits the pocket of consumers in every non-energy producing country in the world. This influences greatly both manufacturing and transportation costs in Europe and the United States and will soon have an impact on China, India, and other oil-dependent regions. So something has to yield. In our industry, we have the opportunity to make a contribution - and it is the issues we discuss at meetings like this that set the tone and direction for solutions.

Are we in the glass business or are we in the environmental business and we just happen to make glass? The answer to this question will impact the future of our industry.
About the Author
Guardian is a diversified global manufacturing company headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, with leading positions in float glass, fabricated glass products, fiberglass insulation and other building materials for commercial, residential and automotive markets.
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