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A Bright Green Spot in a Brown Economy

The obligatory political feeding frenzy got started this week. Two of President Obama's nominees withdrew under a cloud of ethical questions. Every administration in memory has dealt with similar issues since the qualifications for presidential appointments became tougher than the Boy Scout Honor Code.

While the Washington press corps whips up interest in the latest alleged ethical lapses, hope springs eternal that these distractions will not divert too much energy from the very serious and important work ahead. The stimulus bill -- passed by the House last week and now being considered by the Senate -- will have far-reaching implications for the green economy for years to come.

Years of rhetoric about smart grids, cleantech and green collar jobs have yielded little real change. Instead of just bailouts for Wall Street financial interests, Obama's stimulus bill has a New Deal-like set of incentives to build our green infrastructure [see Business Week]. The bill provides tangible investments in clean transportation, energy, water and other areas of cleantech. When implemented, these will have ripple effects through the economy ranging from data management, finance and consulting services.

The approach in this bill is farsighted. With the world reaching a tipping point in pollution, poverty, resource depletion and climate change (which are all interconnected), the super powers of the future will be the nations who lead the world in the design and development of solutions to these problems.

With a well designed set of incentives and mandates, the U.S. can lead the cleantech economy. There was a small indication of the interest in this trend this week. Hot interest in the State of Green Business 2009 conference melted through an otherwise frigid economy. The sell-out crowd had lots of energy and some guarded optimism about the potential for this area. Another positive sign was the sellout at the Net Impact conference at Penn last November where thousands of young MBA candidates from around the country came to learn about being the next green entrepreneurs.

While "hope and change" is becoming a Jon Stewart punch line, there are real signs of both as we harness innovation and our natural competitive spirit into sustainability solutions. And, if we are successful we will all win, as will our children and grandchildren.

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