Later this month, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, and a raft of policy changes are sure to come. Among others, the president-elect has vowed to roll back proposed regulations covering power plant emissions, contending that they will hurt the economy and put U.S. industries at a competitive disadvantage.
Whether you agree with that or not, reducing carbon emissions is not necessarily at odds with economic competitiveness. For example, the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency (AIE) released a report last fall ranking states by their ability to slash carbon emissions through industrial energy efficiency. Since the industrial sector uses more energy than any other sector of the economy—approximately one-third of U.S. electricity use—reductions in industrial energy use could reshape energy demand and cut air pollution nationwide.
The report argues that the manufacturing, mining, construction and agricultural industries could realize dramatic savings by investing in energy-efficiency technologies, such as combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP)—the practice of powering and heating industrial facilities with otherwise-wasted resources and energy.
“This report demonstrates that we can cut carbon while saving money,” says Jennifer Kefer, AIE executive director. “With this analysis, we have exposed the myth that clean energy and manufacturing competitiveness are in conflict.
Ranked by their potential to cut carbon emissions, the top 10 states are Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan, California, Georgia and Alabama. At a national scale, CHP, WHP and other energy-efficiency technologies could save 396 megawatt hours of electricity; 174 tons of carbon dioxide; and $298 billion in utility charges.
Ohio, second on the AIE’s list, is a good example. Industry is the largest consumer of energy in Ohio. By ramping up energy efficiency at an industrial level, including through CHP and WHP, Ohio could save more than 15 million megawatt hours of electricity annually. That could reduce carbon emissions by 10.3 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking three coal-fired power plants offline. More importantly, Ohio manufacturers could save $12.5 billion collectively in electricity purchases by 2030.
The report lists several Ohio manufacturers that have already realized gains by becoming more energy efficient. For example, automotive supplier Nissin Brake Ohio Inc. has invested $1.67 million in energy-saving projects since 2008. The company received $289,000 in rebates from the local utility, enabling most projects to pay for themselves in two to three years. The investments—including new compressor controls, air drying and lighting—have saved more than 800 kilowatt-hours per year and helped the company avoid $3.4 million in energy costs since 2009.
Performance like that can’t be bad. Instead of bickering about what causes what to score points in pointless ideological conflict, let’s support reasoned investments that save money, resources and the environment.