Despite the new agreement from the Paris Climate Change Meeting, there seems to be growing momentum against being energy efficient. As I write this, crude oil is under $40 per barrel, and perhaps going lower as the new year begins. Lower prices of gasoline, diesel oil, etc. in the retail market are quite apparent.
Yet, energy from such sources, such as oil and natural gas, is in a finite supply. We will eventually run out. We cannot be wasteful. Plus, the scientists say there are limits of how much of carbon currently trapped in the ground can be put into our atmosphere without causing grave outcomes of rising sea levels, more extreme storms and droughts, etc. We need to not only transition to renewable (non-carbon) sources of energy, but also to use more efficiently the fossil fuel we still need to combust.
While Americans had moved toward a more energy efficient economy in their buying decisions, recent market conditions (cheaper fossil fuel prices) appear to be pushing us in the other direction. Recently, reports have come out about Americans purchasing fewer hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars and more larger, less fuel-efficient ones.
How can we overcome the reaction of Americans to short-term trends, such as cheaper gasoline prices, and focus instead on long-term needs? Certainly the concerns about and growing acceptance of Climate Change has not affected purchasing behavior long-term. Polls show a majority of Americans now believe Climate Change is real, but don’t think they can do anything about it. Perhaps an outright war in the Middle East may trigger a revival of concern for energy efficiency; let’s hope it does not come down to that! Perhaps a return to $4 per gallon gasoline will do so; but now in post-Recession America perhaps people can better tolerate such high prices and not change their ways. Besides, high gasoline prices will harm certain sectors.
I think the biggest obstacle to people and companies being more energy efficient is that there is no single “face”, no celebrity, no company or entity that is “talking the talk” very publicly backed up by “walking the walk.” Trying to make it both beneficial and “cool.” Energy efficiency is complex and not a single entity to be represented to the public. And there are no “trophies” or high-visible ones that are internationally accepted. It’s a lot easier to do nothing.
Although there have been many good, leading companies being out front on energy efficiency, the average CEO cares little about potentially losing many thousands or millions of dollars in inefficient processes or buildings. Maybe it’s education; today’s CEOs never learned about sustainability and limits to resources. Today’s Business School students are learning this. Or maybe CEOs perceive bigger battles to wage or think the gains (financial, publicity) are not worth it.
This directly impacts my business. Particularly in the last year or two I have had a number of people, companies, or municipalities approach me about helping them be more energy efficient or sustainable, and then not go forward with the project or just do the minimum and not go forward with the rewarding projects. Some “vetoer” stops the process, they cannot get funds, they change their minds, etc. Energy efficiency and sustainability are nice concepts in theory, but for many, there is little will to close the deal and really be serious about it.
I hope entities like these will change their mind in the future, and they probably will eventually, but I cannot go on as a business this way. I will be working for a larger energy consulting firm that uses greater resources to invest in convincing and serving buildings about being more energy efficient.
CCES is still around, and we can help you address technical issues involving environmental compliance issues affecting your company. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.
Have a wonderful Holiday season and a happy, healthy, prosperous 2016!