Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama's "Spread the Wealth": An Industrial Energy Retort

All of us, by now, have heard the outcry over Barack Obama’s intention to “spread the wealth.” While cable news pundits of all stripes are having a field day with that one, no one has yet to point to a glaringly obvious alternative:

Rather than spreading the wealth, why not ensure

greater access to wealth for a wider population?

Let’s now put this into the context of industrial energy efficiency. U.S. industry—the facilities that manufacture intermediate and final goods for global consumption—spent $94.4 billion dollars for the 16.4 quadrillion Btu of energy it consumed in 2002, the year for which most recent data is available. The same source explains that of all energy delivered “to the fence” of industrial facilities, 32 percent of that volume, on average, is lost to waste. That 32 percent equates to $30.2 billion. Yet again from the same source, there’s strong evidence to suggest that half that waste is economically recoverable—a total value of $15.2 billion.

Perhaps you anticipate this: Why not build wealth through better control of the resources we use? If we agree that energy is a resource, can we not agree that energy deserves to be managed like wealth? As this blog posited earlier, fuels and electricity are synonymous with currency. A successful business process transforms a small volume of wealth into a larger value. Energy, as an ingredient in every product that is manufactured, represents a value that can create wealth if we manage it properly.

Smart energy practices, procedures, and technologies provide greater access to wealth that is currently forfeited to waste. Corporate leaders take note: this dialogue is about rethinking the relationship between industry and the energy it consumes. It's about capturing and re-employing valuable energy resources that allow fixed assets to create a larger volume and variety of products. It's also about using alternative energy sources to offset the risks and liabilities associated with fossil fuels. This is about so much more than $15.2 billion in utility bill savings. It’s about the additional output provided by the margin of energy recaptured through efficiency—output with value that exceeds energy expense by many orders of magnitude.



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