Alternative energy, public transit offer stable investments

In thinking about the future, it can be useful to imagine you're a cautious investor out to find the best long-term returns on your money.

If you think about urban and environmental issues that way, with a highly critical, long-range, dollars-and-cents perspective, where would you put your money right now, and what investments would you shun?

If you're already heavily invested in the status quo, as are most major retail, auto, energy, suburban growth and health care corporations, you're going to dump more money down the rat hole of the past — and, I think, lose your shirt.

If you're looking at the obvious real world indicators, you and your money will shun the status quo. You won't risk your capital by gambling on how long the unsustainable can endure the pressures of reality.

What are those pressures? They're obvious for all to see: increasing gasoline prices, home heating prices, water prices, transportation prices and health care costs — all made dicier by an increase in the erratic and dangerous nature of the weather.

Investing isn't about ideology, though for some people it's about short-term, high-stakes gambling. But most of us invest by taking calculated risks on the nature of what lies ahead.

A realistic investor, one who isn't wallowing in nostalgia for the simplicities of the 1950s and the barbaric greed of the 1980s, would never put money into sprawling development, never invest in big-box retail stores that depend on low gas prices for their profit margins, never invest in our dysfunctional health care system that so many detest, never buy stock in antiquated, inefficient energy technologies such as coal and nuclear power, and would never invest in entrenched, low-mileage private transport over cost effective public transport.

It's not a matter of altruism. It's a matter of long-term risk analysis. Unless you have money to burn, long-term money, invested by people protecting and growing their nest eggs, would have to go into trains and other public transport, into infill development, into alternative and decentralized energy, into local businesses and small regional retail stores, into conservation and recycling technologies, and into alternative, preventive, decentralized medicine.

An overwhelming majority of Americans want public transit, including trains. And in the future an equally overwhelming number of us, working for diminishing wages as the old economy collapses, will be looking for every way possible to save money — especially when it comes to transportation and water and other public services.

You can't build nest eggs by losing money and promoting a chaotic environment. If you're careful with your money, you'd invest it in new companies and products with a growing stability inherent in them — companies that don't rely on risky and depleting fuels and health care and other services based on ideology rather than customer satisfaction.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
December 15, 2007