Cash for Caulkers

It makes sense to weatherize homes. Beefing up insulation and sealing leaks means less energy gets used to heat a house and less of that heat...

It makes sense to weatherize homes. Beefing up insulation and sealing leaks means less energy gets used to heat a house and less of that heat escapes. That translates to lower energy bills and a smaller environmental impact for homes.But weatherization doesn't always look good from the consumer's perspective. Dave Leonhardt tried to get his home weatherized and wrote about the experience in his New York Times column this week:For $400, an auditor spent hours scouring our house, with the help of a big fan he set up in our front door and an infrared camera. He produced a full-color, 13-page detailed report, informing us of the leaks in our house, and he was also willing to tell us which changes were usually a waste of money (new windows). Even so, we are still trying to figure out which weatherization projects we should do. The whole package would probably cost $4,500 and save us something like $400 a year. We may not stay in the house nearly long enough to justify the investment.Such concerns are typical. How do you find an auditor? How do you know whether you should seal a few ducts or pay $2,000 for new insulation? Which of the existing subsidies-state and federal-might you qualify for?Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias both note that if the government kicked in some money with a "cash for caulkers" program, that could make weatherization financially attractive for people like Leonhardt and create jobs at the same time. That's true, and there are some creative ways of solving the financial hurdle. One proposal would add the cost of weatherization to a home's future property taxes so that if you decide to weatherize, and then decide to move, you split the investment with any future owners.But it's not just the money that makes weatherization such an obstacle. Many of Leonhardt's concerns have to do with the complexity of the process, rather than just the cost. Here, the case of buying a home solar energy system is a good analogy. That's a process that is at least as complicated for the consumer as weatherization. The technology is new and complicated. How do you compare the offers of different solar panel providers? How do you forecast how much money solar panels will save?There's an opportunity here for a company to step in and do what 1BOG has done for solar: Get an entire neighborhood interested in weatherization, negotiate with providers for group rates, and act as an broker and advisor for the group. This pooled purchasing ends up being cheaper for consumers because they're buying in bulk, and more comfortable because they have experts guiding them through a complex and unfamiliar marketplace. With 1BOG, the broker takes a flat commission regardless of who gets the contract, so homeowners can be pretty certain of impartiality.

McDonalds sells a lot of coffee. Over a billion cups a year, to be exact. All that coffee leads to a lot of productive mornings, but it also leads to a lot of waste. Each year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff (the skin of the coffee beans that comes off during roasting) ends up getting turned into mulch. Some coffee chaff just gets burned, leading to an increase in CO2.

Now, that chaff is going to get turned into car parts. Ford is incorporating coffee chaff from McDonalds coffee into the headlamps of some cars. Ford has been using plastic and talc to make its headlamps, but this new process will reduce the reliance on talc, a non-renewable mineral. The chaff is heated to high temperatures under low oxygen and mixed with plastic and other additives. The bioplastic can then be formed into shapes.

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For over 20 years, our country has perceived itself as more divided than united, and it's not getting better. Right after the 2016 election, a poll conducted by Gallup found that 77% of Americans felt the country was divided on the most important values, a record high.

The percentage of Americans who agree that we disagree got higher. During the 2018 mid-term elections, a poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that 80% of Americans felt the nation was "mainly" or "totally" divided.

We head into the 2020 presidential election more divided than ever. A new poll from USA Today found that nine out of ten respondents felt it was important to do something about the conflict in our country. We can't keep on living like this forever.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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