Federal Subsidies Create Few Green Jobs

(p. F2) . . . solar power, which makes extensive use of robots in fabricating the cells, and has no moving parts to service once it is up and running, may be an odd choice for job creation.
“It’s just not that labor-intensive,” said Howard Axelrod, an engineer and economist. And as for the jobs it creates, there may be a price elsewhere, Dr. Axelrod said.
. . .
Build enough solar plants and some coal plants will shut down; that would amount to firing Peter to hire Paul.
. . .
And, economists point out, some of the work that renewable energy creates goes to people who already have jobs — roofers who install the panels or truck drivers who move them around, or steel workers who make towers for new wind machines.
Some of the jobs could eventually go elsewhere. Two years ago, Evergreen Solar, which got $58 million in aid from Massachusetts for a factory in Devens, said it would shift production to China instead.
. . .
The debate is part of a larger discussion of what constitutes a “green” job. In October 2009, Congress gave the Bureau of Labor Statistics a special appropriation to count them.
. . .
“Driving a bus is driving a bus, right?” said Connie Mack, Republican of Florida. Hilda Solis, the secretary of labor, said they were “green buses.” But aides later clarified that the bureau counted any bus driving job as green because it preserved natural resources.
None of this suggests that green is bad, just that it is not particularly job-heavy. In December 2010, Susan Combs, the comptroller of Texas, reported that school districts in her state were giving tax abatements to lure new jobs, but had to give $1.6 million for every wind energy job. Manufacturing jobs could be created for $166,000 each.

For the full story, see:
MATTHEW L. WALD. “Solar Power Industry Falls Short of Hopes in Job Creation.” The New York Times (Weds., October 26, 2011): F2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 25, 2011.)

More Firms Adopt ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) Policies to Empower Workers and Cut Costs

CitrixSystemsWorkersPickOwnLaptops2011-11-10.jpg“At Citrix Systems, Berkley Reynolds, left, uses his Alienware laptop, and Alan Meridian, his MacBook Pro, paid for with stipends.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — Throughout the information age, the corporate I.T. department has stood at the chokepoint of office technology with a firm hand on what equipment and software employees use in the workplace.

They are now in retreat. Employees are bringing in the technology they use at home and demanding the I.T. department accommodate them. The I.T. department often complies.
Some companies have even surrendered to what is being called the consumerization of I.T. At Kraft Foods, the I.T. department’s involvement in choosing technology for employees is limited to handing out a stipend. Employees use the money to buy whatever laptop they want from Best Buy, Amazon.com or the local Apple store.
“We heard from people saying, ‘How come I have better equipment at home?’ ” said Mike Cunningham, chief technology officer for Kraft Foods. “We said, hey, we can address that.”
Encouraging employees to buy their own laptops, or bring their mobile phones and iPads from home, is gaining traction in the workplace. A survey published on Thursday by Forrester Research found that 48 percent of information workers buy smartphones for work without considering what their I.T. department supports. By being more flexible, companies are hoping that workers will be more comfortable with their devices and therefore more productive.
“Bring your own device” policies, as they are called, are also shifting the balance of power among electronics makers. Manufacturers good at selling to consumers are increasingly gaining the upper hand, while those focused on bulk corporate sales are slipping.
. . .
(p. B6) Letting workers bring their iPhones and iPads to work can . . . save companies money. In some cases, employees pay for equipment themselves and seek tech help from store staff rather than their company’s I.T. department. “You can basically outsource your I.T. department to Apple,” said Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital.
A similar B.Y.O.D. program at Citrix Systems, a software maker that also helps its clients implement such programs, saves the company about 20 percent on each laptop over three years. Of the 1,000 or so employees in Citrix’s program, 46 percent have bought Mac computers, according to Paul Martine, Citrix’s chief information officer. “That was a little bit of a surprise.”

For the full story, see:
VERNE G. KOPYTOFF. “More Offices Let Workers Choose Their Own Devices.” The New York Times (Fri., September 23, 2011): B1 & B6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 22, 2011.)

The Case Against Fluoridating Public Water Supplies

(p. A18) Last week, Pinellas County, on Florida’s west coast, voted to stop adding fluoride to its public water supply after starting the program seven years ago. The county joins about 200 jurisdictions from Georgia to Alaska that have chosen to end the practice in the last four years, motivated both by tight budgets and by skepticism about its benefits.
Eleven small cities or towns have opted out of fluoridating their water this year, including Fairbanks, Alaska, which acted after much deliberation and a comprehensive evaluation by a panel of scientists, doctors and dentists. The panel concluded that in Fairbanks, which has relatively high concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride, the extra dose no longer provided the help it once did and may, in fact, be harmful.
. . .
The movement to stop fluoridating water has gained traction, in large part, because the government has recently cautioned the public about excessive fluoride. A report released late last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked fluoride to an increase among children in dental fluorosis, which causes white or yellow spots on teeth. About 40 percent of children ages 12 to 15 had dental fluorosis, mostly very mild or mild cases, from 1999 to 2004. That percentage was 22.6 in a 1986-87 study.
Fluorosis is mostly a cosmetic problem that can sometimes be bleached away. But critics argue that spotted teeth are a warning that other bones in the body may be absorbing too much fluoride. Excessive fluoride can lead to increases in bone fractures in adults as well as pain and tenderness.
“Teeth are the window to the bones,” said Paul Connett, a retired professor of environmental chemistry and the director of the Fluoride Action Network, which advocates an end to fluoridated water.
Experts say that one possible factor in this increase may be that fluoridated water is consumed in vegetables and fruit, and juice and other beverages as well as tap water. And the consumption of beverages continues to increase.
. . .
The conclusion among these communities is that with fluoride now so widely available in toothpaste and mouthwash, there is less need to add it to water, which already has naturally occurring fluoride. Putting it in tap water, they say, is an imprecise way of distributing fluoride; how much fluoride a person gets depends on body weight and water consumed.
Doctors, scientists and dentists, including Dr. Bailey of the Public Health Service, mostly agree that fluoride works best when applied topically, directly to the teeth, as happens with brushing.
“The fact that no one really knows what dosage a given person receives from fluoridated water makes the subject of benefits and harms very difficult to quantify,” said Rainer Newberry, a professor of geochemistry at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who sat on the committee that studied the issue prior to the June vote in Fairbanks. “And this presumably explains the number of studies with diverging conclusions.”

For the full story, see:
LIZETTE ALVAREZ. “Looking to Save Money, More Places Decide to Stop Fluoridating the Water.” The New York Times (Fri., October 14, 2011): A18.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 13, 2011.)

Collins Says Successful CEOs Are Empirical and Disciplined


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A15) ‘Great by Choice” is a sequel to Jim Collins’s best-selling “Good to Great” (2001), which identified seven characteristics that enabled companies to become truly great over an extended period of time. Never mind that one of the 11 featured companies is now bankrupt (Circuit City) and another is in government receivership (Fannie Mae). Mr. Collins has a knack for analysis that business readers find compelling.

Mr. Collins’s new book tackles the question of how to steer a company to lasting success in an environment characterized by change, uncertainty and even chaos. Like his previous work, this book builds its conclusions on a framework of painstaking research, conducted over nine years and overseen by Mr. Collins and his co-author, Morten T. Hansen, a management professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
. . .
Messrs. Collins and Hansen draw some interesting and counterintuitive conclusions from their research. First, the successful leaders were not the most “visionary” or the biggest risk-takers; instead, they tended to be more empirical and disciplined, relying on evidence over gut instinct and preferring consistent gains to blow-out winners. The successful companies were not more innovative than the control companies; indeed, they were in some cases less innovative. Rather, they managed to “scale innovation”–introducing changes gradually, then moving quickly to capitalize on those that showed promise. The successful companies weren’t necessarily the most likely to adopt internal changes as a response to a changing environment. “The 10X companies changed less in reaction to their changing world than the comparison cases,” the authors conclude.
. . .
If “Great by Choice” shares the qualities that made “Good to Great” so popular, it also shares some that drew criticism. The authors’ conclusions sometimes feel like the claims of a well-written horoscope–so broadly stated that they are hard to disprove. Their 10X leaders are both “disciplined” and “creative,” “prudent” and “bold”; they go fast when they must but slow when they can; they are consistent but open to change. This encompassing approach allows the authors to fit pretty much any leader who achieves 10X performance into their analysis. Would it ever be possible, one wonders, to find a leader whose success contradicted their thesis?

For the full review, see:
ALAN MURRAY. “BOOKSHELF; Turbulent Times, Steady Success; How certain companies achieved shareholder returns at least 10 times greater than their industry.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., OCTOBER 11, 2011): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Companies Can Grow to Greatness in Brutally Turbulent Environments

(p. 118) All that said, there remains a question: what about “the perennial gale of creative destruction” as described by the famous twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter, wherein technological change and visionary entrepreneurs upend and destroy the old order and create a new order, only to see their new order destroyed and replaced by an even newer order, in an endless cycle of chaos and upheaval? Perhaps all social institutions in our modern world face disruptive forces so fast, big, and unpredictable that every entity will fall within years or decades, without exception. Can we still stave off decline in the face of severe turbulence?

While working on How the Mighty Fall, my colleague Morten Hansen and I have been simultaneously working on a six-year research project to study companies that grew from vulnerability to greatness in severe environments characterized by rapid and unpredictable change in contrast to others that did not prevail in the same brutally turbulent environments.

Collins, Jim. How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2009.
(Note: italics in original.)

Bright Prospects for Longer Life


Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) “We are at the cusp of a revolution in medicine and biotechnology,” Ms. Arrison announces, “that will radically increase not just our life spans but also, and more importantly, our health spans.”
. . .
She recounts advances in stem-cell research, pharmaceuticals and synthetic biology. And the tinkering with genes still goes on. We learn about Dr. Cynthia Kenyon at the University of California in San Francisco, who discovered that the life span of the tiny worm Caenorhabditis elegans could be doubled by partially disabling a single gene. Further improvements on the technique resulted in worms living six times longer than normal. “In human terms,” Ms. Arrison says, “they be the equivalent of healthy, active five-hundred-year-olds.” That may be a bit much to expect, but Ms. Arrison says she is confident that “human life expectancy will one day reach 150 years.”
. . .
What is more, technology heavyweights are paying attention, including Bill Gates (if he were a teenager today, Mr. Gates once said, he’d be “hacking biology”) and Jeff Bezos (“atom by atom we’ll assemble small machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs”). Larry Ellison, of Oracle, started a foundation more than a decade ago to support anti-aging research; the institution donates about $42 million a year.

For the full review, see:
NICK SCHULZ. “BOOKSHELF; Bioengineering Methuselah; Human beings living to be 150? And you thought Social Security and Medicare were in trouble now.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., AUGUST 31, 2011): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)

The book under review is:
Arrison, Sonia. 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Fantasizing about Achieving Goals Has Opportunity Cost in Terms of Energy to Actually Achieve Goals

(p. C4) Fantasizing about achieving goals can make people less likely to achieve them, by sapping the energy required to do the necessary work, a study finds.
. . .
The researchers concluded: “Positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like.”

For the full story, see:
Christopher Shea. “Week in Ideas; Psychology; Lost in Fantasy.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JUNE 4, 2011): C4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

The article summarized is:
Kappes, Heather Barry, and Gabriele Oettingen. “Positive Fantasies About Idealized Futures Sap Energy.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47 (2011): 719-29.