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Ted Kidd
Works at Energy Efficiency Specialists
Lived in Rochester, NY
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This threatens the fabric of society. No justice, no consequences, no law.
 
"The entire financial sector is tied jail term-wise with the economy's equally critical 'Real Housewives of New Jersey' sector -- oh, actually, they're behind 2 to 1." -- Jon Stewart

Watch the episode: http://on.cc.com/1HxDiW9
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Nicely written. Captures some of the Econ and Philosophy I learned in college.
 
Today, I’d like to talk a bit about economics. In particular, I want to look at why capitalism can both work amazingly well and fail amazingly badly, often at the same time, and is such a great factory for “best of times, worst of times” conditions. The seven-word summary is: “Free markets work, except when they don’t.”

I won’t spend too much time on the first part of the sentence, because presumably you’re familiar with the ways in which free markets can work well. Basically, if two people freely engage in a trade, by definition it makes both parties happier; if it didn’t, they wouldn’t have engaged in that trade in the first place. The more trade is possible, the more people can accumulate things that make them happy – e.g., more free time to spend with their families while getting the same amount of food. There are all sorts of mechanisms which amplify that; probably the most important is “comparative advantage,” which shows how if there are enough people around so that everyone can specialize in what they’re best at, everyone comes out ahead. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage if you want to learn more about it; Ricardo’s example is a good place to start)

However, if you’ve paid any attention at all to the world in the past few centuries, you’ve probably already got an objection to what I just said: “You think they wouldn’t have engaged in that trade if it didn’t make them happier? What if they didn’t have a choice?” And you would be perfectly right, and that part is the heart of “except when they don’t.” There are a few ways in which free markets can fail, but most of them are obscure and relatively easy to fix (e.g., limited money supply). The big one, which represents the overwhelming majority of all the problems, is coercion: the argument that a free trade makes both parties happier doesn't apply to trades which are not free.

(And note, by the way, that coercion harms free markets both locally – in that the individuals being coerced lose out, often by a lot – and globally, in that coercion is essentially a “tax” levied by one person on another. Those of you familiar with economics will recognize that whenever the price of something is pushed away from its natural equilibrium, overall value goes down. So when I talk about failures of capitalism, I mean failures that are simultaneously moral and financial failures.)

As far as I can tell, the large majority of coercion comes in three forms, which I’ll call externalization, capture, and inelasticity. These three overlap and most real situations combine them, but what they have in common is that they’re ways in which one person can force someone else to accept a trade that they would normally never take.


Externalization, also known as “negative externalities,” is when I can make everyone else pay my costs. The most common forms which don't overlap heavily with capture (the next item) are when I can take my costs from a poorly-policed commons (e.g., dump waste into an air supply that nobody is monitoring), or when I can spread the costs out so widely that every individual's cost of recovery would exceed the damages to them. (Playing games with individuals less able to individually recover is part of capture and inelasticity)

Capture is the classic positive-feedback problem of any system of human power: you can use your power to get more of it. Pure capture (as opposed to inelasticity) happens when there are central methods of regulation or other power-amplifying systems which you bring under your control via bribery, coercion, etc., and suddenly rather than regulating you they amplify you. That can be anything from regulation of pollution of commons to having the police keep Those People "under control" for you. 

Inelasticity is the result of the fact that the value of money isn't linear. If you have $100,000, then $1 means a lot less to you than if you have $10,000. In particular, people's needs up to a certain wealth level are dominated by constant overheads such as food and housing; so long as your total resource access is of the same scale as those overheads, your financial life is dominated by the severe consequences of falling below any one threshold. Once you're far from those overheads, the value of resources becomes far more linear. Often, a good way to measure this is in terms of "being one <event> away from disaster;" if the event is as small as a flat tire, versus if it's as big as inoperable cancer, it's a huge difference in life.

If two people are about to engage in a deal, and one of them is near-threshold while the other isn't, the one who isn't has huge negotiating leverage. For example, you can give someone a shitty job like mining coal that they would never accept if they had some option other than starvation. 

(Economists will note that in “inelasticity,” I’ve abused a term which actually represents something very natural, which is that the price of some goods isn’t very sensitive to supply or demand. The problem I’m describing here is really the problem of extreme inelasticity: specifically, when a person’s net resources are low enough that the costs of white-pill [“you need this in order to live,” nearly infinitely inelastic] goods become a dominant part of their financial calculus. Better terms for any of these would be welcome.)


There are methods to deal with all of these problems, and they work to varying extents.

The way you solve the first kind of externality is to not have poorly-policed commons. That doesn't necessarily mean enclosure, i.e. giving ownership of those commons to private individuals: in fact, enclosure is extremely susceptible to capture effects, as we saw with the original enclosures in 18th-century England. Methods like cap-and-trade, or simply either (a) requiring people to pay their own damned cleanup costs or (b) being up-front about the fact that we’ve decided to pay those costs as a community in exchange for the net benefits of whatever it is those people do, can be quite effective.

The second kind of externality, where people spread costs around widely – e.g., stealing $5 from every household in a city – can be solved by mechanisms like class-action suits, central regulators and law enforcement. In each case, the idea is to create some kind of entity (be it an ad-hoc collective of individuals or a dedicated set of professionals) which is strong enough, and incented properly, to pursue recovery whenever someone tries to steal from the community. 

There’s a hybrid kind of externality which also uses inelasticity: if you steal from the poor, they’re less likely to have the resources to go after you. This is based on the fact that recovery of any sort tends to have fixed overhead costs, e.g. the time, money, and knowledge required to sue someone. When people’s total spare budget of any of these is tiny because of their basic cost of survival – e.g., when someone is working hourly and can’t afford the time to engage in a lawsuit – it becomes a lot easier to steal with impunity. This is just a nastier variation of the second kind of externality, and is often best solved with a swift kick to a tender area of the anatomy.

You can solve inelasticity by reducing the overhead costs to zero. There are many different overhead costs -- food, shelter, transport, child care, etc., etc. -- and each can be analyzed separately and each creates value in its reduction. One way to reduce those is to literally reduce the cost of the items; e.g., the real cost of clothing has plummeted over the past few centuries, and now lacking clothing is only a major factor for people near the absolute bottom of the resource curve, where clothing is really being used as a substitute for shelter. Another way is to reduce need for the items, e.g. by having housing close enough to work and so on that people don't need lots of transport. A third way is to socialize the costs of these items, e.g. by having functional public transit or health care. That doesn't reduce their intrinsic costs, but it eliminates the inelasticity effect on individuals by averaging their cost over the entire population.

Capture is harder to solve. The best solution proposed so far has been democracy, but as we're well aware, that's more like "the worst solution except for all the other ones that have been proposed." There are some fields in which it can be solved by things like direct competition among regulators, but that has strange failure modes: consider, e.g., the competition among bond rating agencies which was supposed to ensure that bond ratings were meaningful. Unfortunately, all three of them were funded by bond sellers, not buyers, and so had the same incentives; a lot of the mortgage crisis was a consequence of that. (Specifically, that the various CDO's being traded had been AAA-rated based on completely nonsensical models, which any rater that had an incentive to actually think through would have known)


Importantly, though, I think that the first part of that original sentence about free trade is at least as important as the second: capitalism works well when coercion is brought under control. Communism was a recipe for making everybody miserable – and ultimately proved even more vulnerable to capture than capitalism. Feudalism and so on are even worse. Even more significantly, capitalism works better by its own metrics when coercion is eliminated: in fact, economists tend to model these things as a kind of tax on the system.

However, benefit to the system as a whole doesn't translate to benefit as individuals. In particular, if you're making a lot of money off (say) inelasticity, by having a large pool of desperate and subservient workers, then even though the aggregate wealth of society would go up a lot if they weren't so desperate, your own wealth (especially your effective wealth, divided by the cost of converting it to goods) would go down. That creates one hell of an incentive for capture, in forms ranging from direct regulatory capture by bribes, to funding astroturf organizations, to creating entire media and social panics, all the way out to creating social institutions – e.g., feudalism or slavery.

So while solving externalization and inelasticity are extremely important, capture is often the key to the whole deal.

Fortunately, it isn't always the key to the deal: sometimes, for example, someone figures out a way to knock the price of some key good down through the floor so quickly that existing groups can't figure out how to capture it in time. The expansion of Europeans through North America was an interesting example of that case (where the price of land became cheap because anyone could just kill people and take it -- or, once the cost of killing people got socialized into an army, just take it); their expansion through South America much less so, because there expansion was effectively captured as an industry by entrenched nobles. The rise of new technologies is a somewhat less bloodthirsty example: e.g., when companies like FedEx cratered the price of small-scale many-to-many shipping logistics, thousands of new businesses suddenly emerged.

Technology, wisely applied, can knock the pillars of inelasticity out from under people. That creates a sudden chance to rapidly equalize wealth distributions, which in turn has a strong negative effect on capture. The question of whether you can maintain that negative effect after the initial pulse, or whether wealth will inevitably end up re-aggregating through a combination of capture and externalization even in a zero-inelasticity world, is one of the major hard questions we're likely to face in the next few decades.

But it’s one of my major interests, and it’s why I spend my time working on technologies which I think can alter the basic cost calculus of the world, by making something previously necessary and expensive (be it knowledge, or communication, or data storage) nearly free.


Illustrative cartoon by Ape Lad (http://goo.gl/QI13CH), CC-NC-ND. Thanks as well to +Xenophrenia​​​ for the initial conversation which sparked this post, and for many other such arguments about the nature of capitalism.
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Selling my tandem $1600 - probably this weekend. 
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Nice!
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Nothing to see here. Move along. Guns will fix everything.
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Cmon, that's funny.
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Tow strap - cure for range anxiety.
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Awards for SHOWING UP!

"Imagine if NORMAL PEOPLE reacted this way to the dutiful execution of BASIC OCCUPATIONAL TASKS!" 5:13

LMAO - sounds like #NYSERDA!
The government rejoices when Congress passes a rare bit of bipartisan legislation, and The Best F#@king News Team Ever applies this self-congratulatory attitude to other jobs.
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Symposium on energy in the 21st century
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Utilities learning they can easily work with more solar than initially thought...
 
"  Gould and other customers protested loudly to state officials. They finally got help from Lyndon Rive, the CEO of SolarCity. The San Mateo, California, company is the biggest installer of rooftop solar panels in the U.S. and has 10,000 Hawaiian customers, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its May issue. Rive studied the situation and zeroed in on a key fact: HECO had never directly measured how much solar its grid could handle, relying on computer simulations instead. “Because the technology is brand-new, no one had ever done this in the field before,” says Colton Ching, HECO’s vice president for energy delivery.

SolarCity joined with HECO to run the tests, with help from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. They found that high-traffic circuits could absorb twice as much solar energy as the utility thought. After asking solar installers to reprogram equipment that connected them to the grid, HECO lifted its ban on new hookups late last year. Gould flipped the switch and connected his new panels to the grid in January.  "
Lyndon and Peter Rive are on a quest to make sun-generated power cheap and easy.
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Jack is slowly disappearing.

Hey, wear an all green shirt! All we need are your head and hands, an that'll emphasize 'em!
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Good EV info graphic.
 
I like how this illustrates the differences between hybrid (top), plug-in (middle), and electric (bottom).  The turquoise color represents the size of the battery.
http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=713&p=418390
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Something we all need to actively guard against. (Passive doesn't avoid it.) Good to step back and consider the nature of hypocrisy.

 
The foundation for the religious right is imaginary victimhood. Without that, there isn't much left.
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Agreed, Tedd. For the other side, check out the Smart Believer Podcast, one of my pet projects.
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Rochester, NY - Pittsford, NY - Chicago, IL - Oaxaca, Mexico - Geneva, NY
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Energy Activist, Advocate, and Adviser
Introduction

My name is Ted Kidd.  My goal is to help transform Home Performance from a product to a consultative service so it can scale, and be worthy of the nickname given me by the Rochester Democrat & Chronical columnist Anne Peterson of Energy Guru.  

By reducing my clients energy use by 30-70% while at the same time improving the comfort and value of their homes, I've learned when you deliver on promise and on budget people are surprised and satisfied.  Home Performance currently does neither, and that needs to change for the vision of market transformation to be realized.  

ENERGY EFFICIENCY SPECIALISTS:  Currently we find ourselves being hired as advocate and quality control support to homeowners interested in comprehensive retrofit improvements.  We are also providing audit process, sales process, modeling process, and improvement design process consulting services to companies attempting to make the jump from product oriented sales to consultative design oriented sales.  

BACKGROUND:  I was raised in a family with 7 children. Being wasteful was frowned upon when there was barely enough to go around already. I wish this was a more pervasive attitude in society today as we need to forestall reaching "peak oil".

In College I studied Economics and have spent the last 20 years involved in financial planning, real estate management, and helping small businesses set up and manage accounting systems and cash flow.

Financial efficiency and energy efficiency are very similar. I firmly feel that money spent on energy, while a necessary evil, is for the most part money wasted. If that money can be redirected to something tangible and lasting, isn't that a better use of resources?

In 2007 Mike Jag of Jag Construction (BPI Accredited Contractor) suggested I look into the Building Performance Institute (BPI) courses. Intrigued, I decided to take the entry class in Syracuse. I found the class took so many "rules of thumb" that I'd heard for years and turned them on their ears that I had to take more. From January to May 2008 I attended 4 NYSERDA "Home Performance with Energy Star" sponsored BPI (Building Performance Institute) training classes. I also obtained the EPA 608 refrigerant certification required to enroll in the Heat Pump class.

After taking these classes it became a priority to finish insulating my house. Given what I'd learned about moisture, air movement and condensation, I was very reluctant to have someone simply blow shredded paper into the empty cavities in my leaky old home. So in the spring of 2008 I contacted AirKrete inventor Keene Christopher to find out about having my house insulated with his cementious foam. He referred me to Halco. Once Hal Smith heard about the BPI training I'd taken he invited me to work in his family business.

I have since left Halco. In 2010 I co-founded a partnership called Energy Efficiency Specialists, which became BPI Accredited and a Home Performance with Energy Star Partner in February 2011.


How can I be of service to you?

I help open doors to financial incentives. We work with other BPI Certified energy auditors and in NY, HPwES Accredited contractors. This opens the door to the "free/reduced cost audit", 3.49% unsecured financing, On Bill Recovery Financing, and 10% to 50% outright incentives for utilizing the NY Get Energy Smart scientific approach to improving energy efficiency.

I'm passionate about energy efficiency and the environment. I've always been keenly interested in financial efficiency. This translates more directly to energy efficiency as resources become increasingly scarce, and as obtaining those resources becomes more conflict ridden. Plentiful alternatives may be "around the corner"..., but in the meantime you can save a lot of money and be less wasteful.

Most homeowners single largest asset is their home, yet too seldom are large improvement decisions assisted by really good cost benefit analysis. Whole House Diagnostics and the power of computer modelling provide the tools. A small investment of time and energy up front can mean huge returns in energy savings, noise, comfort, health and improved durability. For most homeowners the key is knowing that the opportunity exists.

I have hands on experience. I've done a lot of work on my own circa 1905 home, which is in the historic Park Avenue neighborhood of Rochester. I have first hand knowledge of the impact that good insulation and equipment improvements have on energy costs. My energy consumption is ¼ therm and 3 kilowatt hours per square foot per year -- that's about 50 cents per square foot in annual energy use. Compare that to the average inefficient home which may use $1 to $2 per square foot, that's pretty significant savings. It won't put your kid through school, but it might buy them the used car to get there.

I have cutting edge knowledge of current building science and best practices. In 2008 I completed NYSERDA "Home Performance with Get Energy Smart" sponsored Building Performance Institute (BPI) training:

  • Building Analyst - 36 hours - January 2008
  • Envelope Training - 30 hours - March 2008
  • Heating Professional - 30 hours - April 2008
  • EPA Clean Air Section 608 UNIVERSAL - May 2008
  • Cooling Professional Training - 16 hours - May 2008

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY SPECIALISTS, LLC.

We are a solutions-oriented energy audit and solutions design company. Our goal is to build a reputation for providing amazingly cost effective solutions, not simply selling products.

Too often people purchase savings products hoping for energy savings solutions and are disappointed. This is a failure of design, not product. Quick fixes are generally not good, and good fixes are generally not quick. Without an audit and thoughtful design, huge opportunities are missed. Success rests on the energy audit and quality retrofit design, which takes talk time and think time.

Energy Efficiency Specialists mission is to provide the highest quality audits and design, we partner with other BPI Accredited/Home Performance Contractors to deliver quality installation and insure our design meets or exceeds our model results.

Products we use to facilitate solutions include:

  • Open and Closed Cell Urethane Spray Foams
  • Cellulose
  • AirKrete Cementious "Foamsulation"
  • Windows and Doors
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems
  • Furnaces, Air Source Heat Pumps (Hybrid Heat)
  • Geothermal or Ground Source Heating and Cooling
  • High Efficiency Hot Water Heaters
  • Wind, Solar Photo-voltaic, and Solar Thermal

We are proud to specify/facilitate install of Carrier, American Standard, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, and Goodman HVAC Equipment, Navien, Triangle Tube and Viessmann boilers, and many other highly respected quality products.

Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time.

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Building a mechanism for tracking energy efficiency improvement results: http://bit.ly/febcontractorupdate - For more links: http://bit.ly/TedKiddSavedLinks
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Mmmmmmm. Love it! Swordfish, salmon, amazing salad... Great food and fabulous servers. (Thanks Kacey!)
Public - a month ago
reviewed a month ago
Amazing fish tikka
Public - 2 months ago
reviewed 2 months ago
great pepperoni and great buffalo chicken slices
Public - 3 months ago
reviewed 3 months ago
DO NOT BUY TREAT! We provide modeling services and "comprehensive audit process" sales consulting to contractors. TREAT is a complex modeling software that, if you put the time in, can provide very accurate energy modeling. Since gaming results to overstate savings is also easily achieved, consumers tend to disregard the savings and focus on other benefits, like fixing performance issues. Unfortunately as a sales tool TREAT is TERRIBLE, and with their most recent upgrade they REMOVED the one decent sales report they had. PSC is very "program" minded, thus they think reports should be about mythical energy savings rather than the things that motivate consumers. This is problematic as it shifts consumer focus away from real problems and achievable improvement objectives and onto mythical "investment return". At small residential scale, with low energy prices, many of our projects have 50-100 year "investment return" time frames. We have people implement these projects all the time, they aren't looking to us as investment advisors they are looking to us for good designs that fix their problems. TREAT reports stink, and it's a good report that helps close sales. Look to other software...
• • •
Public - 4 months ago
reviewed 4 months ago
17 reviews
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Really small town friendly and generous. We were traveling through and needed a charge. They graciously invited us to used their charger, warm up in their very pleasant waiting room, and help ourselves to coffee or tea. They aren't currently selling EV's, but with the new Volt and Bolt coming out they may revisit this decision. I would definitely want to come here to test drive! Fast n easy WiFi. Thanks Ken and Tim!
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Rent a #fatbike! They've got lots of 'em.
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Terrible WiFi.
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