Six surprising sustainability facts

1. Do you think energy efficiency improvements are all hype and wouldn’t really help the energy situation?

If every car in North America was as fuel efficient as a Toyota Prius, there wouldn’t be a need to import any oil.  None.  (Anyone who claims the U.S. can drill its way to energy independence without large cuts in consumption is either uninformed or lying).  It would also eliminate the need to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic.

What’s so bad about getting our oil from other countries?  Besides giving up our energy independence, energy security and placing our very economic well-being in the hands of a few despotic leaders – who are frequently hostile to the U.S. – the payments for imported oil have been the greatest voluntary transfer of wealth in human history.

2. Does it seem like green energy companies are getting all the government subsidies?

Oil and gas companies worldwide receive about $700 billion a year in subsidies – far more than all the green energy companies combined.  What’s more, seven of the 20 most profitable companies in the world are oil companies.  Do they really need government help?

3. Do you think cutting carbon is an expensive waste of time?

According to the international management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, 40% of North American carbon cuts required to meet the Kyoto Protocol emissions targets would generate a profit.  If those profits were reinvested in additional carbon cutting measures, the U.S. could meet the Kyoto emissions targets at no cost to society.

4. Can the efficiency of U.S. electricity generation be improved?

Absolutely.  The efficiency of U.S. electricity generation could be tripled.  A dismaying 67% of the energy from the coal, gas and nuclear electricity generation is wasted as heat that’s simply vented up smoke stacks and cooling towers.

Combining heat and power production, or cogeneration, could increase system efficiency from the current pathetic 33% to 90% by using the heat that is currently wasted to heat buildings and homes.

5. Won’t going green cost money, hurt profits and slow economic growth?

Going green can actually be great for revenues, profits and economic growth.  Some companies have cashed in by producing green products and services.  Since launching its ecomagination initiative in 2005, GE has sold over $70 billion in green products and services.  $25 billion in 2010 alone.

Other companies have used green products to slash energy use and costs.  Walmart has invested $500 million in sustainability projects, with an expected payback of four years or less.

6.  Can energy use for computers be reduced?

A stupefying 50% of the 108 million corporate PCs and monitors are left on overnight and on weekends, wasting up to $4 billion in electricity annually.  This is extraordinarily wasteful and unnecessary in the corporate world and in homes.

New power management software from companies like 1E, Verdiem and Faronics allows computers to be put to sleep at the end of the day or when computers are unused.  IT can easily wake them up to install software.

In short, by using available technologies to improve our energy efficiency, the U.S. can drastically reduce energy consumption, save enormous amounts of money, improve our balance of trade deficit and energy security and make our economy more sustainable and healthier.  If we have the capability to do it, we must simply be lacking the will.

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About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.