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Innovation Is Key

September 27, 2017

History will show that every time the United States’ free market system was met with economic crisis, innovation and technology was ushered in at the 11th hour to save the day. Our great nation and its free economy have faced over forty-seven recessions since its conception. Advances in farming technology allowed us to overcome the challenges an economic engine, which depended on agriculture production in the late 1700s. After the Civil War, it was the race to connect America coast-to-coast that spurred on the age of the railroads. Evolutions in manufacturing processes and the spread of available electric power allowed for hard goods to cost less and be readily available on demand in the late 1800s.

After World War I, it was the ignition of the automobile industry that transformed the way we travel. Globalization was a result of World War II, which followed the aches and pains of the Great Depression. The airline industry age of the 1960s and the computer age of the 1980s—all heroes which save our nation from the brink of economic disaster. The Information Age of the 1990s and today’s Digital Age provided significant employment opportunity and replaced many of the lost jobs of yesteryear, allowing for those that lost their previous career position a chance to transition to new employment. Behind each revolution was technology and innovation; conveniences that allowed us to do things better, faster and at a lower cost.

Today, our country faces yet another critical fiscal crisis. Economists that provide statements that were are not in a recession are dead wrong. Our nation’s debt is the highest in history, with the U.S. Debt Clock now showing a U.S. National Debt of just over 17 trillion dollars in the red, and a total U.S. debt just over $61 trillion dollars in the red, it does not take an economist to realize that we need innovation and technology once again to step up to home plate and hit a home run. While Wall Street might be on fire, experiencing record highs and seeing peak profits, it is a very different picture on Main Street U.S.A. In order for our national debt to be cleared today, each U.S. citizen would have to cut a check for $56,000, and each taxpayer would need to shell out another $151k for us to clear the slate.

The White House and advocates on the hill are calling for a national increase to minimum wage, raising the current hourly rate from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour. Participants in the “Minimum Wage Economy” labor force want $15 per hour. Skeptics and the opposition to the minimum wage hike argue that such a large increase will slow down the even slow economy and deter small business owners from expanding their operations or hire any additional help. Advocates for the minimum wage hike say that the majority of the available jobs are minimum wage low paying entry-level jobs, jobs that cannot sustain the very households that provide the labor. Both sides of the argument are still missing the bigger picture . . . even by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is not going to make an impact on paying down $17 trillion in national debt.

My question is this, if we demand a higher standard of wages or revenue, then why are we settling for mediocrity? Are going to undermine the value of a tradesman or professional who spent years refining their craft or expertise so that we can feel good about giving everyone and “equal” footing? What about demanding a strong national industrial policy that breaks all the barriers that are holding back new job creation from industry sectors relating to technology and innovation? Why are we not considering sun setting regulation that stifles small business and deter them from hiring local employees instead of penalizing them for frivolous victimless civil matters? Why don’t regulators sit down and coach small businesses on how to navigate through the regulatory landscape instead of crushing their dreams with over-burdened enforcement action? Why are we not revisiting trade policies that allow for the balance of fair trade instead of free trade? Most of all, why are incentives provided to companies that take jobs off U.S. soil and we over tax and over regulate the companies and businesses who choose to stay behind, because it the right thing to do?

I could go on and on about policy and the regulatory landscape, but in the mist of it, we need innovation to swoop in like Superman and save the day.

Technology and innovation that creates hard goods, hard goods that need to be manufactured, can provide employment opportunities for skilled workers who have had to settle for a minimum wage job. No other industry can provide for such saving grace than the green industry and the tech arena. With public policy mounting in line with the available selection of product lines aimed at environmental mitigation, energy conservation, and efficiency, are products and market segments which not only provide jobs, but economic benefits to consumers, if they embrace them. Early market adoption of community based, value creating technology will allow for yet another wave of local and regional job creation to take hold. In addition to skilled labor for manufacturing, the green industry provides a platform for accountants to provide energy audits and surveys. We have already seen the transition of construction workers who have become trained and readied to install solar and LED technology. Retrofit technology and innovation in the emissions industry and fuel economy movement offer jobs to technicians who lost their jobs during the General Motors and Chrysler dealer consolidations.

The new-found riches in natural gas, light sweet crude and advances in propane for auto gas (even with the controversial practice of fracking) have giving the United States the ability to replace foreign fossil fuels with domestic supplies. Other local businesses have been stimulated as a result of domestic energy exploration, such as trucking, construction and real estate. With massive reserves of natural gas waiting to be extracted, the U.S. now has a value export besides consumer goods to offset trade balances and debt. Coal still used in other parts of the world can still be mined from high yield areas such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky and can still keep these traditional mining jobs alive, yet again creating another commodity ready for export.

The digital media age still yields vast opportunities. Content creation and content management focuses on targeted users within a specific geographic and/or demographic audience. These jobs are jobs that can be filled with folks that base skill sets derived from journalism and traditional media backgrounds; marketing and advertising professionals, communication and cable industries; as well as workers from the computer era, retrained and updated on new technological delivery devices that give direct content to consumers. Behind the scenes I/T networking jobs are still in high demand; this time instead of tying together the web of desk top computers, it is become a job of mobile device management, integrating the thousands of apps and connecting tens of millions of end users. Design and functionality will continue to thrive as we the consumer asks for style, convenience, and information at the very tip of our fingers when we want it.

No matter the technology, innovation is the key to jump starting Main Street again. These jobs can fill local store fronts and vacant space. Main Street is counting on us to believe in it again. Micro industries and micro economies are a valuable tool to reinvent ourselves. With unemployment at an all-time high (sorry but the statistics do lie), all options to create free market free economy jobs need to be on the table. Who will step up to the plate and be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or who will be the next Elon Musk? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, as history will demonstrate, innovation will prevail just in the nick of time.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.


The Minimum Wage Debate – What are We Really Missing?

September 20, 2017

Source: Sam Burlum begins the discussion relating the minimum wage debate: do we make law to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour as some are demanding, or are we missing the bigger picture and asking for the wrong request?

In June of 2015, the City of Los Angeles had adopted an ordinance which mandates the hourly minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour over the next four years. Prior to the action by the governing body of L.A., the City of Seattle passed a similar ordinance. This came after much public outcry over the issues that surround the dubbed “income inequality” and “fair share” for individuals who may receive minimum wage compensation for entry-level positions or jobs that are considered low-skilled work. Theses recent actions taken by government that mandate individuals to be compensated based on their need rather than being compensated on their performance sets a very dangerous precedents.

There are many questions to be answered as we debate this issue. This is a very complicated issue that deserves more discussion and inclusion of input from economist, small businesses, and intellects who have studied social and community engineering. Government officials who were quick to answer a call of action to mandate the minimum wage hike to $15 per hour were either responding to popular consensus or just eager to capture political votes, I doubt thought of the severe consequences of this very action. There are many economic and social ramifications that small business and society will have to tackle for years to come as a result of increasing the minimum wage in the name of income inequality.

Concerns surrounding the minimum wage hike are far beyond the common arguments discussed by small business and consumers that speak against the measure, afraid it will cause a spike in prices of products and services that rely on entry-level labor to provide. With the middle class continuing to struggle to meet their family’s daily needs, they now have to add into the equation higher prices for goods or services once considered “affordable,” or “economical.” Such an example is in the area of fast food restaurants, where a family of four would entertain a meal for just under $20; has now jumped up in the past 10 years to double the cost. With workers in such establishments now demanding higher pay for entry level work, restaurant chains will be forced to pass along the cost to the consumer, thus making the fast food less affordable.

We must also tackle the issue of what someone’s value, time, and/or skill set are worth. Having to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for a job or task that clearly does not justly match the service or labor provided will have workers in jobs that require further education and training, maybe more dangerous, or require more investment into the craft will surely be advocating for a larger paycheck that reflects their individual value proposition. For instance, a truck driver whom must content with an industry which is over-regulated and must invest time into extensive training, sometimes without pay, can expect to be paid between $13 per hour to $23 per hour, depending on experience and safety record, according to research. The average median pay for a truck driver is $17 per hour. Why would someone want to risk their lives behind the wheel, assume all of the stress and responsibility, and have to deal with being away from home for weeks at a time, for $17 per hour, when they can work a Mc-Job without any stress for $15 per hour and be home every night? Clearly the stage is being set for a serious disagreement by folks whom provide more value than those who are working at entry-level positions.

Opponents also says that a minimum wage hike sends the wrong message overall to society. By “entitling” people to make what are wages usually reserved for middle class families and the trades, we are sending a message that society is diminishing the value and virtue of self-responsibility. When a person is compensated based on need, and not on performance or based on the skill sets they provide, we are undermining incentive for those who wish to provide quality work, those who wish to continue to invest into their trade or professions in order to stay competitive in the job market. If everyone is to receive equal pay regardless of the value they bring to the table, then why should anyone work so hard?

One area of great debate is how do we justify a $15 per hour minimum wage for someone who works in an entry-level position, when someone who serves in the military and puts his or her life on the line to defend our freedoms, who will face hostile situations, only makes between $15 to $22 per hour, depending on the range of skill sets and assignments they are commanded to carry out. If one can make $15 per hour as an entry level position, then why would anyone want to join the military as a career choice knowing that such a job consists of far more risk? To offer $15 per hour for a job reserved clearly as entry level, in this situation should be reconsidered and denied as a matter of national security.

Companies are already looking for ways to lessen the need of minimum wage workers in their operations. In retail and grocery stores, automated self-service checkout registers are quickly replacing cashiers and front-end clerks. You may see one individual who would now oversee four registers where in the past you would have one clerk to every register. Fast food restaurants and airports have been replacing people with self-service kiosk. Some businesses have stopped hiring all together, including some businesses interviewed who are family owned and located on Main Street. More workers are also hired as part-time and are limited hours, so they can never reach full-time status.

Mandated minimum wage increases are just a bandage on the broken arm of the much severe challenge at large. The real source of the problem is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but yet everyone is afraid to say it. As we the people, we should not be demanding $15 per hour compensation for a minimum wage job; we should be demanding better jobs. Jobs associated with minimum wage compensation are usually jobs set aside for low-skill or no-skill workers. These are usually entry-level positions where the value provided by the employee is not of its greatest value relating to the product or service offered to the consumer. With the economic downturn in the United States, and the vast migration of manufacturing jobs lost to cheaper labor overseas, individuals once in middle management or low-paying skilled jobs have had to resort to accepting what work is available.

Instead of demanding that politicians write laws that increases minimum wage, we should be demanding our jobs back that did allow us to properly support our families. We should be asking our nation’s leaders to address the hard questions, such as how are they (the elected officials or government decision makers) going to help recreate the preexisting conditions necessary that will foster innovation, encourage the renewal of the entrepreneurial spirit, and restore American free enterprise. Provided the opportunity to properly operate without the over burdensome number of government regulations, and control over free trade agreements, such companies would provide many quality jobs to support products and services manufactured here on U.S. soil. We should be holding elected officials and government regulators accountable to their actions that created today’s unfriendly and adversarial business climate that has forced many companies to move valuable manufacturing jobs overseas, jobs in which paid at entry-level above the $15 per hour mark.

We should be questioning the very ideals and details of free trade and be demanding fair trade where these policies have diluted the American market place with goods that are cheap replicas of lesser quality from foreign countries instead of making policy that would protect our very own income producing centers and industries. Instead of trying to be politically correct in the “global village” how come we did not protect our valuable industry profit centers that needed a well-qualified skilled labor force to assist in the success of the company, in which that company would then offer its goods as a valuable export to the world?

The issue of income inequality is just a cover-up, masking the much bigger problem at large: where are all of the jobs that would allow for an individual to challenge themselves in seeking higher education or mastering a trade or specific niche skill set? Have we not any jobs left that allow for our society to take onto himself or herself the responsibility in seeking or aspiring to higher advancement? Are we a nation that now produces nothing but roll back deals, ATM fees, and Big Macs? Are we setting a trend where mediocrity rules and the true value creation is minimized? The answer to this entire debate is better jobs that offer better compensation equivalent to the skill sets provided by the worker. The answer is to minimize some of the adversarial conditions which discourage entrepreneurs from making financial investments and which prevents them from taking a risk. To do those two things we would be providing something much greater than income equality; we would be providing opportunity equality, which fosters by natural progression far more individual wealth and freedom.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Five Automotive Gadgets That Were Mocked Before Becoming Standard Equipment

September 11, 2017

Source: As long as there have been cars, there have been tinkerers and inventors who thought they could build a better mouse trap. Some inventions would never prove themselves beyond the concept and prototype stage, while others would be adopted over time to become standard equipment, as we now accept them as a part of our lives today.

We have taken a look at five inventions—technological advancements that were first thought of as science fiction and criticized harshly before making the transition into the regular make-up of the automobile. Some of the gadgets on our list are fairly new, and have just begun to emerge, while others date back to the 1930s:

  1. Global Positioning System (GPS).The Global Positioning System was invented by the Department of Defense and Dr. Ivan Getting. Following his undergraduate study at MIT as an Edison Scholar, Getting was a Graduate Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. He was awarded a Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1935. In 1951, Getting became the vice president for engineering and research at the Raytheon Corporation. The first three-dimensional, time-difference-of-arrival position-finding system was suggested by Raytheon Corporation. Later, Getting would refine a device that was applicable for use on the ground.

The first systems were known to “send people in a circle” as they did not properly calculate location yet. The device was almost abandoned. The GPS first became available as an aftermarket accessory that you could buy at your local automotive parts store, but later became mainstreamed as companies such as Garmin and TomTom appeared. The GPS is standard in most vehicles today, and is built into the electronics of most modern dashboards right from factory. It took over 50 years before the GPS became standard in vehicles and is now on mobile phones as well.

  1. Intermittent Windshield Wiper.The Intermittent Windshield Wiper was invented by a man named Robert Kearns, in the basement of his house, who was an engineer by trade from Case Western Reserve University. Made famous by the movie, “Flash of Genius,” Kearns’ efforts in suing the automotive industry were successful after many years of legal battles in court. Kearns did not work for any car company, but discovered a solution to a problem and acted on his own. It took him almost a decade to obtain a patent and nearly gave up in the process.

In 1973, Ford adopted the technology as a new feature on its famous Mustang model and other top sellers as well. Chrysler was next to capitalize on the invention. Kearns would later win decisive and landmark court battles against both vehicle manufacturers, marking it the largest litigation on the record over patent infringement. It took over 20 years for the auto industry to make the intermittent windshield wiper standard on all production cars.

  1. Electronic Control Unit (ECU).The first Electronic Control Units, also known as Engine Control Units (ECU) and Power Train Control Units (PCU), hit mainstream when General Motors released the technology in 1979. It started as a small application on Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Cadillac makes and models.

These initial components were nothing more than logic modules which would utilize a hybrid digital/analog design. GM would ramp up production and the use of ECU in 1980, using microprocessors as a base for improving the form and functionality of the device.

In 1981, microprocessors for use in this application were here to stay, and auto manufacturers began to replace carburation with fuel injection systems because they now had a “brain” that could better control these functions. It’s hard to say who invented it first, since a number of auto manufacturers were working on designs of their own at the same time. Some people give Louis Brennan credit for inventing the base of the concept, when he used computer intelligence to create the first missile guidance system. The worldwide government standard vehicle diagnostic system, OBD II became the uniform standard in 1996, although by then many vehicles had already come with a more user-friendly version.

  1. The Electric Car Itself.The electric car is nothing new. The first electric car designs were developed by Nicola Tesla. Most of the very early motor coaches prior to mass production of vehicles were nothing more than an electric motor that was attached to an axle powered by a battery. The refinement of gasoline as a usable and cheap form of energy to power the internal combustion engine ushered in the petro era power plants still used today. In 1931, Tesla had stripped down a Pierce Arrow, and recreated the vehicle to accommodate an electric motor, a Westinghouse motor, which could reach speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

Later, General Motors would toy with the idea of an electric car with the release of the General Motors EV1, made famous by the movie Who Killed the Electric Car. By the mid to late 2000s electric vehicles were going mainstream. With fuel prices reaching $3 a gallon, many garage inventors would look to convert their own vehicle into a homemade electric-powered one. This spurred the auto industry to meet the demand of fuel saving vehicles. Toyota answered with Prius, and now offers a full electric version of the vehicle. Nissan launched the Leaf. General Motors ushered in the Volt under its Chevrolet brand. Today just about every manufacturer offers a model vehicle that utilizes an electric power plant under the hood.

And it only took the industry over 100 years to do it! Two main reasons are technological advancements and demand; X, Y, and Millennia generations grew up with a popular notion to embrace a responsibility to the environment, and in the use of transportation this meant exploring alternatives, including hybrids, electric, and even the use of new fuels. Tesla Motors, founded and funded by PayPal pioneer Elon Musk, only offers electric vehicles.

  1. Smart Emissions Reducer (SER).The Smart Emissions Reducer is a relatively new addition to the list. The base technology was originally invented to reduce emissions and was widely tested and adopted in the logging industry. The technology is a simple retrofit designed that transforms crankcase emission gases into a more combustible state. As the newly enhanced gases exit the device and re-enter the air fuel stream, the fuel in the combustion chamber now burns cleaner and more completely, resulting in a more efficient use of fuel, and an entirely cleaner process.

A company located in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, would later commercialize the product into use in commercial and government fleet vehicles. Since Extreme Energy Solutions took the product to market, the Smart Emissions Reducer has made its way under the hood of passenger vehicles, commercial delivery vehicles, taxi cabs, big rigs, transit buses, stationary generators, and even tested in the rail industry. The product was tested by Roush Industries, a leading automotive lab in Michigan, on gasoline powered vehicles. Test showed the device could deliver up to 7.5 percent increase fuel efficiency, while reducing emissions up to 65 percent.

It would be later be tested by KESHI Group, a manufacturer of specialty off-road vehicles for the mining industry in China. The report showed the device offering up to five percent in fuel efficiency under controlled laboratory conditions, and 20 to 50 percent in emissions reductions, within various phases of engine operating modes. This testing was on a 5.9 liter Cummings diesel-powered engine. Keshi Group continues to test the SER under real world conditions and has applied the technology to several vehicles in the field. As a result multiple engine and vehicle manufactures have issued Extreme Energy Solutions letters of intent to explore the use the SER as standard equipment.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Save Money on Gas with Your Current Ride

September 7, 2017

In tough economic times, and with prices at the gas pump still hovering around $3.00 per gallon, many of us look to alternatives to lower our fuel usage.  Some of us have even explored into upgrading our larger, older vehicle for a smaller, more fuel-efficient model.

But there are many basic no cost/low cost practices that we can use in order to save a few bucks at the pump, and get the most out of the vehicle we already own.

These simple tips are some of the basic practices we tend to overlook that aid in compromising our fuel savings and vehicle performance.

Did you shop around locally for the best priced quality fuel?  Price does matter so does the quality. Sure you can buy gas from that one station that may be twenty cents cheaper than everyone else, but will the grade and quality create vehicle issues down the road?  Most stations do post their prices for the following day by 3 p.m. of the current day. Choose wisely. It’s not to your advantage to travel10miles and pass up on three filling stations to save two cents a gallon.

Did you consolidate trips, conduct errands in one large trip, and limit how many short trips you drive? Many of us have a tendency to leave and return from our home or office many times throughout the day. By consolidating our trips and proper planning, not only are we saving money on fuel cost, we end up putting less wear and tear on our vehicles, getting more done and saving time for other business activities.

Do you carpool when available? Do you walk or bike if the distance is less than a mile? This is about just leaving the car at home and catching a ride with the neighbor, or walking a few blocks to fetch the morning newspaper. It takes at least a mile or two for a car to reach its normal operating temperature. During that phase of startup, the vehicle uses its most fuel because the vehicle is in “open loop,” or warm up, and the shorter the vehicle travels, the less chance the vehicle has to get acclimated to the driving conditions. Less than a mile, hop on the bike or put one foot in front of another.

Do you drive within the speed limit? In today’s rush, we all tend to drive a bit fast. Speed limits were not just designed for safety; they were also modeled after peak vehicle performance curve, for those particular road conditions. Driving within the limits will also allow for you to lighten up at the throttle, burning unnecessary fuel in times of less favorable road conditions.

Do you lower air conditioning levels for when you only need it? Air conditioning units on vehicles do draw down power on the battery, the electronics, and on the load of the engine. The engine, in order to cool itself, will consume more fuel. With scorching temps on the rise for the summer months, the A/C is a treat. Just have balance in your demand on the system because you will pay for it at the pump.

Do you make sure your tires are properly inflated?  Under-inflated tires provide for more friction and resistance to the road. This requires more energy to power the vehicle, hence more fuel usage. Most tires are rated beyond the rating that is displayed on the sidewall, and can be overinflated by 5 pounds per square inch. This assures a harder ride, but it also assures less wasted effort at the tires.

Did you remove all of the extra weight and objects from the truck/storage area? That late night return home from the road trip with suitcases and belongings can have an effect on fuel economy. As soon as you return home, allow for some time to empty the car. Many of us drive around with items from trip after trip that compounds and becomes a burden on vehicle. The less weight, the less fuel you will need to move the entire package down the road.

Did you use the correct oil in the engine?  Less friction equals less fuel used. Also, the wrong weight oil can case engine temps to rise, and the need for extra fuel to cool engines down. Some motor oils now offer extra formulas for high mileage, synthetics, and for specialized applications (towing-racing-etc.), allowing for engines to operate more smoothly, lessening the need for be draws on fuel.

Do you drive aggressively?  Jackrabbits, erratic starts and stops, or racing around a bend just to end up slowing down are just some of the behaviors that compromise fuel economy. Do you weave in and out of traffic? Do you try to beat the red light? All of these habits are contributors in losing fuel economy. Remember, the first and ultimate tool in fuel economy is the foot that rest on the gas pedal, and our own judgment to drive conservatively.

Did you make sure your car is properly maintained? When the basic general maintenance of any piece of equipment is degraded, it will not perform in its peak efficiency. Whenever a vehicle has a check engine light, base program falls into a default state, providing for basic functions but not for maximizing the fuel economy. The longer you drive with a check engine light, the further your vehicle will reduce its efficiency.

It’s really easy to put these tips into practice. All it takes is some time investment and taking the personal responsibility to do so. In addition to these tips, there are many aftermarket add-ons that provide a return on investment. We shall review some history of fuel economy and some of the available technologies that have proven themselves in the market in our next entry.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 3- Quantity vs. Quality

August 28, 2017

Source: With hundreds of bottled water brands out there, and a large spectrum of prices, how does one choose a brand of bottled water? We provide insight to what makes a quality bottled water worth its price and how to evaluate a good deal on bottled water when you see one advertised.

Who would have thought we would be paying upwards of two and three dollars in some cases for a bottle of water when 30 years ago a person would just put a glass under their faucet and drink what came out of the pipe? It seems our society took clean fresh water for drinking for granted, and now because so many of local fresh water sources have been polluted, many of us have resorted to purchasing water from the supermarket.

So how good is that water that is on sale for $2.99 for a case of (24)-16 ounce bottles, and why is it that some waters are priced above that for just one bottle? How do we make buying decisions on the quality of water we choose to put in our bodies, or it is purely economics that dictate our buying decisions. With so many brands and selections, how does a consumer choose the right bottled water?

The bottled water industry is a nine billion dollar industry, with Pepsi’s Aquafina being the largest in the business, followed by Coke’s Dasani; and then Nestlé’s Poland Spring are the top three brands; however are you getting what you think you are getting when you purchase a product from the large brands? Is a good deal or a good price really the value that is perceived?

First you have to consider the very source of the water, in where it comes from.  Most of the cost-effective, or in some consumers’ minds, “cheap” water, is nothing more than filtered and refined municipal water; meaning water that comes from public sources and companies pay for access to these water sources.

There is much brand confusion which tricks consumers to think that these waters come from other sources; for instance some of these waters may be labeled with packaging that shows ice caps or mountain springs or rivers, when in fact when you read the fine print, the truth is revealed that the water comes from municipal sources. Other wording such as “natural” and “purified” create the illusion that these waters are as of high quality as some of their competitors. So to know exactly what you are getting, a consumer must know the difference in the types of waters that are available and the quality of their sources.

Some of the best water comes from artesian well. This is water that comes from a contained isolated source from deep beneath layers of rock and sand. The water is above the actual water aquifer and is not influenced by any man-made water sources such as municipal water wells. Waters that fall into this category include H2O Energy Flow and Fiji water. This water is viewed as some of the best water a consumer can buy. Usually these sources are well protected and are miles away from any industrial, commercial, and/or residential zones.

Purified water is water that has passed through extensive filtration process. Other names for water in this category might also be seen as distilled water, deionized water, or purified drinking water. Most of these waters come from municipal water sources, which are processed through large commercial filtration systems. These systems usually consist of both mechanical and chemical filtering processes. This is the lowest quality of bottled water a consumer can purchase.

Mineral water is water that contains minerals and trace elements from its natural source. No minerals and or chemicals can be added to this water. All minerals must be disclosed and this water must be monitored on a regular basis. No more than 250 parts per million may be detected in this water before it must be purified.

Drinking water is just another marketing practice of saying bottled water. This water must pass the sniff test for humans to be able to consume this water, outside of using it for other purposes such as cooking, bathing, or laundry. Sweeteners and chemicals are highly prohibited from being added to these waters. Sometimes you will see flavors added to these waters, however the trace amounts of flavoring is so minimal so it can remain bottled water and not as a soda or juice.

Some waters have a balanced pH, which in science is a measurement and formula for calculating acidity and alkaline conditions.  The most ideal balanced condition is a pH of 7.8. Other trace minerals to keep in mind that are important for the body are calcium and magnesium. Waters that contain these trace minerals are usually considered higher end water.

Other indicators that a water source is pure and of higher quality is that the label of the product will provide additional information including whether or not the water is arsenic free, chlorine free, BPA free, MTBE free, chromium 6 free, and trace pharmaceuticals free. These are items you typically could expect to be in water that comes from municipal sources.

Now that you have the lowdown on the types and qualities of bottled water, now you have to decide whether water is a cost or an investment. If price is the most important factor in your buying habits, then you most certainly will not be getting the top shelf best quality water available. When you look at such a valuable commodity such as water as a cost, you are automatically shutting out any product information available about which water is actually better for you. If you see your buying habits as investments, it demonstrates that you are willing to pay a little more for quality. As the consumer, ultimately the choice is yours; just know the value you are getting when you chose price over quality.

Other alternative water supplies that an individual can consider which have grown in popularity over the past few years in include the collection of rain water; where rain barrels have been set up to collect runoff water for garden irrigation, washing cars, and property maintenance. Cisterns and cistern systems have also made a comeback. These types of systems consist of large tanks or sealed reservoir systems that collect water from rain water, snow melts, runoff, and/or fountains; where water is redirected into these storage tanks. These systems can be simple where the water is for non-human consumption (irrigation, washing of cars, clothing, etc.), and is either not filtered or filtered minimally. Some systems are significant in nature and are outfitted in partnership with commercial filtration units so that the water can be used for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Many homes in America have their own well water; where a well is either dug and/or drilled until the drilling rig hits an aquifer or water source. A pump is placed in the well, usually powered by electric, which pumps the water to the top of the well for distribution of the water to faucet. Homes located in rural areas usually have some sort of well for water source. The only cost in this source is the maintenance and powering of the actual well equipment, unless the water is considered “hard water,” meaning the water contains hard heavy metals such as iron. In this situation, a filtration system is added to purify the water to be more palatable.

But what price can you put on the most important natural resource known to man? What is the price one is willing to pay to sacrifice clean fresh drinking water sources?  No matter the situation, we all have a responsibility to keep our lakes and rivers free of pollution and garbage; we all have a responsibility to be mindful not to damage or pollute ground water sources. Our very next glass of water counts on it.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or Rehab Center: Which to Choose?

August 20, 2017

Source: We define the differences in the types of senior care options and the level of care that is associated with each.

Before an individual can make a decision on which type of senior health care they need or which type of facility to choose, one must understand the differences that nursing homes, assisted living campuses, or a rehabilitation center offers. Do you need short-term care, or long-term care? Is your loved one near their end days and therefore would require hospice care? Each type of care has its own unique services, cost, and usually addresses a different set of circumstances.

When we think of a nursing home, sometimes we think of the stereotypical environment of beds lined up in a row all in one room, with elderly people occupying them, tended to by an army of white uniformed nurses. The modern-day nursing home is so much more than that, and has transformed into a private environment of personal care with dignity.

Nursing homes provide care that requires licensed nurses to care for and monitor patients’ health care. Assisted living facilities, by law, cannot provide these services that require licensed nurses to administer. Patients in nursing homes nowadays usually require assistance in almost every activity of daily living such as bathing, walking, grooming, and eating. Federal and state governments heavily regulate nursing homes, a fact which is largely responsible for the high costs.

Someone who would be considering nursing home services for a loved one should remember this type of care is reserved for someone who has lost their mobility; might be on large doses of heavy medication; and/or might have mental issues associated with a physical ailment. Nursing home services provide round-the-clock care. Nursing home services are long-term care units that coordinate a range of medical, personal, and social services to meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of people who may be chronically ill or disabled. Services also include room and board, monitoring of medication, personal care, 24-hour emergency care, and social and recreational activities.

An elderly person who still has most of their mobility, however cannot live at home on their own safely, may not need a licensed nurse to provide all the care and services to maintain an independent quality of life; however now and then they may call upon an aide to assist them with daily household chores. Each assisted living facility is licensed to administer a level services needed in maintaining a quality of life for residents. Usually assisted living residents can access additional care for physical needs on and off campus depending on that particular facility. Every assisted living facility is different in some way. A new trend in the industry is having assisted living and nursing home services under one roof, just different wings of the building. This allows for continuous care of residents when they need upgrades services during times of health difficulties.

There is a wide range of assisted living choices, from vast retirement communities to a few beds under one roof of an all-inclusive senior health care facility. Someone in search of an assisted living facility must ask themselves, how much help do they need, and how much are they willing to pay? Some assisted living facilities have been designed to mimic a resort environment, where seniors can purchase a condo or an apartment within a larger complex. On the other side of the spectrum, someone in their golden years also has the choice of a quaint setting, much of that you would find at a local bed and breakfast inn.

If a person needs rehabilitation services, they most likely are recovering from a major surgery, injury or accident. The foremost reasons why seniors access the services of a rehab center are for hip and knee replacements, and strokes. Rehabilitation centers will offer occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and other therapy and counseling focused on restoring mobility and activities of daily living. Rehabilitation care is the most expensive and involved. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the injury or surgery. Most rehabilitation situations fall under short-term care.

The newest of facilities in senior care are combining all three services under one roof. Having all of these facilities on one campus allows for patients to transition from service to service with ease and peace of mind. Facilities that offer all these divisions of care have been able to increase their volume of patients because of the continuity of care. Facilities that offer nursing home, assisted living, and rehabilitation are masters of customer service and patient care. They must balance the continued care between services for patients; they must have a well-versed understanding of the documentation and regulations associated with each type of care.

Regardless of the type of facility you choose, always do your research on the facility. Don’t be afraid to ask them the hard questions; how did they rank in their Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rating, or how did they score on the last state inspection? Remember, you are the consumer and patient, and you have to feel comfortable with putting your life and/or the life of your loved one in their hands.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

The Real Global Warming-Climate Change Hoax

August 8, 2017

Source: The climate change-global warming debate has heated opposition from both camps of individuals, professionals, scholars, politicians, and entrepreneurs who have dug their heels in the dirt to argue why we do—or don’t—need a push for a worldwide carbon tax and initiative to curb energy consumption and harmful emissions; however what both camps fail to discuss is that all of the answers and solutions in solving this very issue are already available. So why the debate?

Whether you believe in the science in which is provided by experts in support of climate change; or if you believe that the entire issue of global warming is a hoax and made up by man, there is no ignoring this social geo-political subject matter. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have politicized this issue, making this matter a football during election cycles. Large companies in the fossil fuel industry have spent millions of dollars to fund studies through private think tanks and institutes in the hopes of having the blessing of the scientific community in their camp. While small pockets of other causes have gathered up the muster to hire experts, experts who use computer models and data of samples taken from the earth, which they believe, provides insight to historical trends. Yet with all of this information available, the jury is still out.

According to the most recent Gallup Poll on the subject matter, one in four Americans is solidly skeptical of global warming. About 40 percent of adults under the age of 50 strongly believe that man has been a serious contributor to global warming. Another 45 percent of Americans believe in man’s contribution to climate change; however, they do not believe that we alone have made as large of an impact as experts say. The last segment of individuals polled believed that global warming and climate change is a hoax, and that there is no supporting evidence that man has created any conditions that would affect the planet’s well-being.

On National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, it was stated by the panel of journalist, environmental advocates, and community activist that the single most important issue in which their generations (X, Y, and millennia) will have to tackle is the issue of climate change and global warming. Yet, despite the over whelming evidence of climate change, in the political area is hot with debate and misbelievers.

Republicans have usually taken a positon that man has not contributed to global warming and have the stance that if we as a society are going to tackle this issue, that we should not be changing the way we do business in the name of climate change, for it will have significant negative impact on the economy and free enterprise system. They feel the financial impact that small business and large companies would have to endure to meet initiatives and goals set by their political counterparts would crush an already fragile economy. The price to pay for such a shift would then be passed onto consumers and employees, which typically take the brunt end of fiscal policies. Republicans also believe that moving away from fossil fuels and coal will cause massive unemployment when America needs jobs.

Democrats take the position that the issue of global warming is real, and they desire to take many drastic measures to curb man’s impact on rising temperatures. They feel the only way to pay for this shift is through a carbon tax, in which every household would pay for their “fair share” of environmental impact on the planet. This is in addition to other consumer related taxes that are tied to energy usage and environmental impact. This is most prevalent in the auto industry, where on every window sticker on a new car, the tax associated with Green House Gases (GHG) and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. Cap-and-trade market proposals have also been introduced by legislation sponsored by Democrats. Cap-and-trade allows for a corporation which has high environmental standards and can prove they actually lessen their environmental impact below a set of standards, could profit from selling their “pollution credits” to other companies that need to have such allowances to be able to pollute, since the ability to prevent pollution would be cost prohibitive.

When in doubt on their position, Republicans and Democrats will turn to their “experts,” usually scientist or professors from schools of thought, who are usually hired, thus profiting from taking one position or another on the issue; whereas the experts debate the facts or fictions of this matter.

What all of these politicians, think tanks, institutes, labs, and activist groups fail to disclose are some very simple truths to this matter. Though global warming and climate change may be up for debate, what is truth is that pollution exists. Pollution that has impacted air quality such as harmful vehicle emissions, emissions of coal-fired energy producing plants, manufacturing sites, all exists. Pollution from chemicals which find their way into precious water supplies are real and can be measured and quantified. Waste management seems to still be a problem in many parts of the world where populations are skyrocketing without the infrastructure to support community growth, and there is one industry that is proving all this to be right.

When introducing its product offerings, the green technology industry has proven emissions reduction solutions through rigorous testing of current and future innovation. These tests undeniably prove that pollution exist, and that the impact of pollution can be mitigated by unleashing these technologies to market. Some of these technologies provide consumers (mass market, commercial, and industrial end users) with a return on investment, thus not costing the consumer to put these technologies to use over time.

Being in the green technology industry for almost 10 years, from personal and professional experience, I can tell you a few things that are not being told to you by politicians, community activist, or think tank organizations.

The real climate change global warming “hoax” is that technologies aimed in solving these issues are purposefully restrained from entering into the marketplace by government regulation. Other types of innovation aimed at providing mankind energy independence are usually crushed by other regulatory agencies. If you don’t believe me, just do a search under technologies that have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or companies in the green tech sector that have been sued by the Federal Trade Commission. There are many of these innovations that are crushed before they can leave the starting gate. Both sides of the political aisle know it and will not acknowledge it.

For instance, there are many rules and regulations on the books that dictate what an auto manufacturer can or cannot do in achieving fuel economy and/or in lowering harmful vehicle emissions. These regulations have been written by large technologies hoping to shut the door to competition, which may sprout up with the better mousetrap. Vehicle manufacturers are forced to comply with GHG and CAFÉ standards with one arm tied behind their back. If these barriers were lifted, the auto industry would have far greater access and latitude in adopting technology that fits their vehicle fleet and customer’s needs, rather than being told what product they will be mandated to use. Companies such as Volkswagen would no longer have to use shortcuts in meeting benchmarks if they had the freedom to choose what innovation best work for their consumers.

What Republicans don’t realize is that if the green technology industry was supported, not by handouts and government sponsored money, but by stripping away the barriers in which have been put in place by regulation, the green technology industry would explode, thus creating many new jobs. The demand for these types of products is there. Republicans need to stop demonizing the price of environmental perseveration and see it as an investment into the future. Though some of the technologies offered may be out of sight for the average citizen, there are cost effective alternatives which would allow for energy companies to work with consumer product manufacturers so that we do not have to give up our addition to fossil fuels.

On the flip side, Democrats need to stop looking to such things as penalties, fees, and taxes as a way to force new consumer behaviors upon the citizenship. Democrats are just as guilty in voting and approving regulation that stifles the green technology sector from making an impact on climate change. Folks in this camp believe government should be choosing the winners and losers of technology. An example of this is EPA’s long standing Stop the Soot National Diesel Retrofit Campaign, which forced one type of technology upon the trucking and transportation industry. This program was designed to benefit one major manufacture of emissions equipment alone, while shutting out any other affordable solutions from the free enterprise market.

As a people, we should not have to give up our freedom to travel, or drive a vehicle, because of a smog alert. In cities such as Beijing, Paris, and New Delhi, government officials enforced new rules limited one the ability to travel by private passenger car in hopes to curb smog. All of this could have been avoided if green technology received the blessing it deserved and was truly free to enter the market place.

So why are these green tech solutions not being supported in solving the issue? It’s like anything else in order to solve the problem you have to admit that one does exist. Then you have to present real solutions that can provide a benefit. One the solution is presented and adopted, the problem becomes solved. At this current time, there are so many experts and think tanks making a profit from debating this matter that they truly do not want to see it solved. If the problem was solved, political figures could not use it as a football in the game of politics.

Until we lift regulation that stifles the green technology sector from making significant impacts on barriers of entry to market, the truth is that the global warming-climate change issue will never be properly addressed. Technologies ranging from power generation to automotive fuel efficiency have all fallen prey to regulatory bodies eager to capitalize on the opportunity to defame such technologies. Until we put an end to this cycle of counterintuitive practices, these technologies continue to have an uphill battle in making it to market. Only a very small percentage of technologies aimed at making an impact on the global warming, climate change matter see the light of day. When we remove these barriers; that will be the day we end the climate change hoax and solve man’s impact on global warming.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.