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Energy Efficiency: Rational Exuberance

During market turmoil, efficiency upgrades are an attractive investment.

electric%20plug.jpgHere's a thought. 

Wall Street is in turmoil.  Real estate doesn't look like it'll be a good investment for a while.  Commodity prices have been falling like a stone.  The dollar is gaining strength against international currencies, making many overseas investments seem riskier.

So if business or home investors are looking for a place to park some money -- and don't want to just stuff it in a mattress -- what should they do? 

I'm not an investment professional. If you're looking for real investment wisdom, you should probably look elsewhere.  Still, it seems that there's one great investment opportunity that's getting overlooked:  energy efficiency.

Yes, oil and gas prices have fallen from this summer's vertiginous heights.  But they're still pretty high.  So Investing in an efficiency upgrade -- a new furnace or HVAC system, more efficient windows, better insulation, smarter lighting -- is a great way to cash in on high energy prices. 

And overall, efficiency upgrades to buildings tend to be a pretty safe investment.  The payout in energy savings is reliable, and -- more importantly -- the return on an efficiency investment actually grows as energy prices rise.  The more that energy costs, the more money an efficiency upgrade will save you.  That makes efficiency agreat  "countercyclical" investment, and a smart hedge against energy inflation.  Plus, the return is all tax free -- after all, you don't get taxed on money you don't spend!

So right now, when other good investment opportunities are looking scarce, I think a lot of us would be well-served by adding more efficiency to our portfolios.  Here's one site that offers a do it yourself home energy audit, with links to smart energy saving ideas. Any takers?

This piece originally appeared on the Sightline Institute's blog, The Daily Score.

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