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The following blog is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Energy efficiency and sustainability should be standard business practice for every company. Just listen to Global Head / Sustainability Initiatives at Bloomberg, L.P., Curtis Ravenel explain his views on it:

“This is very consistent with just good business because if you have environmental impact, that means you likely have waste. And if you have waste, you probably have some inefficiency. And if you have some inefficiency, then you likely have money on the table and there’s an opportunity to improve your operating performance.”

Sustainable operations and maintenance increases occupant health and safety, prolongs the life of building finishes and systems, and uses healthier, ecofriendly products and procedures. Sustainable workplaces provide the most effective work environments and strategies at the lowest life-cycle cost. When sustainable workplace concepts are integrated with an organization’s mission, the organization can make decisions that benefit their people, the environment, and their bottom line.

For more information and to see our partners discuss the Tenant Demonstration Project, please visit our website on the commitment at

Posted In: Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Wrapping paper sales drives, cereal box top campaigns, donation solicitations—as a child of California’s public school system, I was introduced early to fundraising. And while I have nothing but fond memories for the rotating disco ball awarded to me as a top magazine seller of my middle school, I am now beginning to wonder, what if there was a better way to close the funding gap?

Ohio legislators and schools have an answer: a resounding yes, in the form of energy efficiency. Recently named the nation’s leader in energy-efficient schools259 of them LEED certified—Ohio’s education system, by using technologies and retrofitting inefficient buildings to use energy more efficiently, is redirecting capital from fossil fuels toward the schools’ bottom line: improving education. Implementing energy efficiency upgrades saves an average of $100,000 in annual operating costs, or enough money to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks.

While there are many factors that have led to this favorable outcome, including supporting state policies like Senate Bill 221, playing a central role is energy efficiency performance contractor Brewer-Garrett.

Providing energy efficiency services for more than half a century, Brewer-Garrett works in local schools, manufacturing facilities—including a cheese factory—, and commercial buildings to maximize the efficiency of their energy consumption and minimize their energy bills. Based in the Cleveland area, the company’s long-term success can be traced to the always-in-demand service they provide: lower energy bills.

“Money is tight in Ohio,” says Energy Service Sales Consultant Dan Mitchell.  “[Clients are wondering]” where do you save money?  How do you make improvements?”

Energy efficiency performance contracting is one surefire way. Through a partnership—“marriage, really,” says Mitchell, Brewer-Garrett guarantees that a client aiming to increase a building’s energy efficiency will see significant enough savings to makemoney off of their initial investment, sometimes within as little as two years.  If a client does not see a project’s savings exceed its costs, Brewer-Garrett writes the customer a check for the difference.  “We have a lot of skin in the game,” says Mitchell. “We’re not in the business to write checks.”

What’s more, the company, employing analysts, engineers, and contractors, offers not only audits and consulting, but also the engineering expertise to see a project through in entirety. “A turnkey solution,” says Mitchell, and one that helps clients unlock energy savings to reduce local pollution and energy bills.

In a region struggling to retain capital and jobs, saving money otherwise exported to import dirty energy is a very smart investment indeed.  As more and more buildings realize these savings, more and more jobs are created, both by the building owners and by Brewer-Garrett, which, in addition to hiring nearly ten percent of its 150 person workforce in the past year, is still on the lookout for more new employees.

Beyond increasing its own workforce, Brewer-Garrett is impacting the economy of Cleveland—and Ohio as a whole—by retaining local capital to support job creation. How does energy efficiency create jobs?  As the amount people spend on energy bills declines, the money that would have been spent on fossil fuels is instead redirected to hamburgers and haircuts, which take more labor per dollar to produce.

The economic advantages of energy efficiency are indeed plentiful, but a different type of green benefit cannot be forgotten: the emissions reductions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. “The greenest energy is the energy you don’t use,” Mitchell points out. Having completed projects that cumulatively save 96 million kilowatt-hours annually, Brewer-Garrett’s work is equivalent to taking nearly 13,000 cars off of the road. Given that Ohio’s electricity is largely generated from dirty coal-fired power plants, these savings have significant environmental, as well as health, implications.

And many projects also have educational implications beyond the monetary savings they provide for schools, by engaging students in the upgrade process. Cleveland State, currently working with Brewer-Garrett on improvements slated to reduce the school’s energy consumption 20%—saving $62.9 million—by 2021, utilizes the efficiency initiative to educate students on energy management. Students of other Ohio schoolsare also benefitting from the hands-on learning opportunities that come with energy efficiency upgrades.

To see that student and faculty engagement plays an integral role in a school’s energy management scheme, Brewer-Garrett partners with energy education specialist theGreen Apple Project to translate their energy upgrades into curricula. Employing an energy project education toolkit that includes, among other things, technologies that measure the energy use of different appliances, the Green Apple Project engages students to be aware of energy management both in school and at home.

Especially in today’s world, lessons in energy efficiency seem much more valuable than the ones I got selling wrapping paper.

Image 1: Brewer-Garrett partnered with Great Lakes Cheese to increase the efficiency of their operations and drive down energy costs. Credit: Greg McDonald, Brewer-Garrett.

Image 2: The recently completed student center at Cleveland State is LEED certified. Credit: Brewer-Garrett.

Posted In: Ohio, Energy Efficiency, Green Schools, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard.

I was on the road this week in Ohio, briefing various transportation advocates and agency officials on NRDC's new polling data showing strong support for more balanced transport policies that favor public transit.

On the flight to Cleveland I perused the most recent issue of The Atlantic magazine and came across an interesting article about why the so-called Millenial generation isn't buying cars or houses. It touched on key issues raised in our poll by noting the undeniable "shift away from traditional suburbs toward denser, urban-light living." The point was that the younger generation is pushing American society toward more sharing and closer living, which favors investment in transit over roads that feed sprawl.

That story dovetailed nicely with a CNN article earlier this week entitled, "Young Americans ditch the car." Apparently it's not just the recession that's keeping young people from this particular rite of passage. As the article explains, "One reason is demographic: The re-urbanization of America is giving more people access to public transportation. The advent of Zipcar and other car-on-demand businesses is eliminating the need to own and insure an expensive vehicle that often isn't driven much. But mostly it's the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be."

The implication is that young people are opting out of auto-dependency because they can, thanks to smart phones that allow them to socialize with friends and also the fact that many Millenials are able to live car-free lifestyles in urban areas that offer mobility via public transportation. All the more reason to invest more in transit.

Then, yesterday, as I read USA Today over breakfast in the hotel I spotted a front-page story proclaiming front porches as the "must have" in housing. Thanks to consumer demand, these days two-thirds of new houses are smaller and feature a front porch. (I added a front porch to my house five years ago, so I get the appeal.) But smack-dab in the middle of the piece was this eye-opening comment from Stephen Melman, with the National Association of Home Builders, who called it a positive trend for "public transportation if new construction is starting to be built closer to employment centers or transit." That was followed by a quote from a Philly-based developer who confirmed, "That's what the market wants."

Yet another clarion call for more transit investment!

Finally, today the USA Today ran another related story -- this one about the decline in solo drivers commuting to work in this country. Partly due to "the dismal economy and skyrocketing gas prices" -- and I would argue the market forces driven by Millenials' lack of driving -- "the share of workers driving to work alone dropped slightly from 2010 to 2011 while commutes on public transportation rose nationally and in some of the largest metropolitan areas," according to new Census data. About two-thirds of U.S. metropolitan areas saw jumps in residents using public transit while the share driving to work alone dropped in about two-thirds or more. Just this week the American Public Transportation Association reported the sixth consecutive quarterly increase in ridership (with rail showing the biggest jump).

The reporter dubbed this "group commuting" -- riding buses, trains, subways or sharing cars or vans. I would call it common sense. After all, who wants to fight traffic every day when commuting by transit is so much easier and cheaper? Of course, that's easier said than done for most people. All the more reason to invest in expanding public transportation to make it more accessible and convenient for more Americans to use it.

Posted In: Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council

Congress BreakThe following blog post is from Andreas Marcotty, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance. 

As Congress returns to DC this week, clean energy advocates across the country are making a stronger case than ever for the support of the American wind industry and economic benefits waiting to be unleashed. After members of Congress left Washington, D.C. to head home for the August recess, over 1,500 wind energy jobs across the country were either lost or put in question due to their failure to extend the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind. These are critical measures for maintaining the progress the industry has made, and maintaining these 21st century clean energy jobs. 

Three reports by BlueGreen Alliance partners—two by the Natural Resources Defense Council and one by the National Wildlife Federation— layout the state of play for both onshore and offshore wind; driving home the point that wind has and will work for American jobs and an American energy source, if the opportunity is seized. 

NRDC highlights the effects of job creation and economic stimulus from just one American wind farm, revealing that 1,079 direct jobs are generated, the majority of which in are manufacturing, construction and operation and highlights the power of a domestic supply chain. 

Additionally, NRDC looks at the community benefits of embracing wind power as an additional revenue source and enabling further economic development (not to mention on average $8,000 per windmill for rural landowners). A strong wind energy industry compounds manufacturing activity and workforce development as shown in Canton, Ohio among surrounding areas where 19 communities are involved in the wind supply chain, including the first center for wind energy development and research of its kind. 

The National Wildlife Association draws special attention to the unique role offshore wind could play for the United States. Their report: “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future” outlines a way forward to capture the massive wind resources off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. NWF found that by generating wind from just 4% of the 54 gigawatts of the identified energy available, the United States could benefit from $200 billion in economic activity and 300,000 jobs. 

These reports agree on many things, but chief among them, is that clean energy can provide a way forward for a 21st century clean energy economy, and that the American worker will take us there.

Hear BGA's Yvette Pena Lops on the National Wildlife Federation's call below.

Flash Required
Posted In: Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council

Today, the White House finalized cleaner car standards that will increase fuel efficiency to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. Achieving this would nearly double the fuel efficiency of cars and pickup trucks on the road today and cut carbon emissions per vehicle mile traveled nearly in half.

Below is the BlueGreen Alliance statement from our Executive Director David Foster:

These cleaner car standards will create 570,000 new jobs here in the U.S.—50,000 in parts manufacturing and vehicle assembly of light-duty vehicles alone—and add a net increase of about $75 billion in annual Gross Domestic Product by 2030 to the U.S. economy. Fuel savings consumers will see from these cleaner, more efficient cars and light trucks will far outweigh slightly higher costs for these advanced vehicles—benefiting workers, their families, and the economy as a whole. 

“These standards are an incredible victory. Already, Americans are flocking to these more fuel-efficient cars, creating jobs here at home and reducing carbon pollution and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. 

“Supported by automakers, union members, environmental organizations, consumer groups and citizens across the country, this is truly an American success story—and a model for how government and industry can work together to achieve goals that benefit our economy and environment. “

We weren't the only ones who were excited about this important event. Our labor and environmental partners also praised this effort by the Obama adminsitration to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions, while creating good jobs for American workers. Below are excerpts from statements from some of our partners:

United Autoworkers President Bob King

UAW President Bob King said, “These new standards will help propel the auto industry forward by giving American families long-term relief from volatile fuel prices. Lowering the total cost of driving will make automobiles more affordable and expand the market for new vehicles.”

“The standards will also provide certainty for manufacturers in planning their investments and creating jobs in the auto industry as they add more fuel-saving technology to their vehicles. Bringing this additional content to market requires more engineers and more factory workers, expanding employment in the industry,” King added. A 2012 study by the BlueGreen Alliance, “Gearing Up,” found that the standards finalized today will lead to the creation of 570,000 new jobs by 2030, largely because consumers will spend less on fuel and more on other goods and services.

“This new standard caps off a remarkable set of achievements by President Obama to save the domestic auto industry and put it on a path to long-term prosperity,” said King. “Cleaner vehicles that significantly reduce our nation’s oil consumption are good for the auto industry and its workers, good for the environment and good for our nation’s economy.”

Natural Resources Defense Council
 President Frances Beinecke

These standards will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and cut our oil imports by one-third. They also represent the biggest step America has taken to reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change.

Building cleaner cars is already helping regain something America lost over the last few decades. Detroit once led the world in auto design and engineering prowess, but innovations stalled and foreign competitors passed us by. Driving used to be a symbol of American freedom and mobility, but soaring gas prices resulted in costly commutes and staycations.

We can reignite America’s love affair with the open road and our patriotic pride in American ingenuity. If U.S. engineers made it possible for every new car to include a computer more powerful than the one that sent a man to the moon, then surely they can produce cars that go farther on a gallon of gas.

They can, and they are.

National Wildlife Federation
 President and CEO Larry Schweiger

“New fuel efficiency rules are a win across the board – drivers will save money with more efficient vehicles, automakers will get the regulatory certainty they need, and all Americans will benefit from cleaner air, a stronger economy, and greater energy security. This administration deserves credit for finding common ground among a broad range of stakeholders, showing government can work for Americans to solve our biggest environmental and economic problems.

Union of Concerned Scientists
Director of Clean Vehicles program Michelle Robinson

“This is truly a watershed moment. Twenty years from now we’ll be looking back on this as the day we chose innovation over stagnation,” said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “These standards will protect consumers from high gas prices, curb global warming pollution, cut our oil use, and create new jobs in the American auto industry and around the nation.”

Sierra Club
Executive Director Michael Brune

"With June and July registering as the hottest months on record, and droughts ravaging America’s heartland, these standards are a major victory for our planet and our families. They will also save families thousands of dollars at the pump and create more than half a million new jobs.

"American automakers are roaring back as leaders of the global market because they are delivering what consumers want -- vehicles that use less gas, emit less pollution, and save families more money at the pump. Today Sierra Club, automakers, and autoworkers stand together to celebrate success for American industry, jobs, and the environment.” 

Posted In: Auto, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Auto Workers, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation

New Chart and Graphic Shows State-By-State Breakdown of Jobs Created, Gasoline Saved, Net Savings to Consumers and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction 

With the imminent Obama Administration announcement of historic fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles (54.5 miles per gallon, on average, by 2025), the BlueGreen Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council have assembled a detailed accounting of the huge benefits that are projected to accrue by the year 2030. 

The data include a state-by-state breakdown of the 570,000 jobs that could be created in the United States by 2030 — as well as other benefits from the standard. In addition to the jobs created, the country will save nearly 23 billion of gasoline in 2030 alone, resulting in $54 billion in net savings to consumers and the reduction of 270 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution, which helps cause global warming. 

The upcoming 54.5 mpg standards promise to bolster the strong automobile recovery we are seeing today. The chart and graphics with state-by-state numbers can be found below. Click them to see the larger version.

2030 State Benefits of Achieving 54.5 mpg-equivalent Fleet Average in Model Year 2025 

Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council and BlueGreen Alliance

  • State fuel and pollution savings are from analysis by NRDC. These figures update and augment similar tables provided in NRDC’s “Relieving Pain at the Pump” publication from April 2012. Main adjustments include updates to fuel prices and vehicle miles traveled per the latest forecasts in the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012.
  • State jobs figures are from BlueGreen Alliance’s analysis for “Gearing Up: Smart Standards Create Good Jobs Building Cleaner Cars”, June 2012. 

Table 1: Jobs Created and Annual Consumer Savings of Model Year 2017 to 2025 Standards in 2030


Jobs Created by 2030

Fuel Savings (million gallons)

Fuel Savings

($ millions)

Net Savings = Fuel Savings Minus Incremental Cost of Fuel-saving Technologies ($ millions)

Carbon Pollution Reduction (Thousands of metric tons of CO2-equivalent)

















































District of Columbia






























































































































New Hampshire






New Jersey






New Mexico






New York






North Carolina






North Dakota






























Rhode Island






South Carolina






South Dakota










































West Virginia


















U.S. Aggregate






For additional background information on the new fuel efficiency standards, see

Posted In: California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Kansas, Jobs21!, Energy Efficiency, Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council

This blog is cross-posted from Peter Lehner's NRDC SwitchBoard blog.

t's been a long, hot, and largely unproductive summer in Washington. Members of Congress head home this month, leaving behind plenty of unfinished business and an ideological divide that remains as wide as the Potomac. The Obama administration, however, is about to pull off a major feat of governance, based on the sort of constructive compromise that seems to have eluded this Congress. In the next few weeks, President Obama will sign off on stronger fuel efficiency standards, created in conjunction with U.S. automakers and environmental groups, that will save consumers big money at the gas pump, create half a million American jobs and dramatically improve our environment.

The administration is finalizing the details of a program that will raise the average fuel efficiency of our new passenger vehicle fleet to the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. On average, our new cars will go nearly twice as far on a gallon of gas than ever before, providing drivers with much-needed relief from pain at the pump and protection from the volatility of gas prices. In total, the new fuel efficiency standards, when combined with the first phase of higher standards implemented in 2012, will put $1.7 trillion back into consumers' pockets over the life of the program.

We're already seeing results from the first phase of improved fuel efficiency standards issued under this administration, and their benefits have exceeded expectations. In the three years since the standards were announced, automakers have doubled the number of gas-sipping models on the market, according to automotive analysts Baum & Associates, giving car buyers twice as many fuel efficient cars to choose from. And according to Consumer Reports, this is exactly what consumers want: a May 2012 survey found that fuel efficiency--traditionally not a strength of American cars--is by far the top concern for car buyers. According to Automotive News, carmakers are better prepared to meet this demand now, thanks to the certainty provided by fuel-efficiency rules, which has encouraged automakers to make the long-term investments necessary to bring new technologies to market. The article states: “Many automakers believe that the work they've done since the last big price surge, and in anticipation of higher government fuel-economy standards, leaves them better prepared this time, with stables of more competitive small cars and crossovers."

The standards set an average; not every car will have to attain 54.5 mpg.  Minivans, pickups, sports cars and other vehicle classes will still be on the market, delivering the same features as earlier models, but with significant improvements in fuel efficiency. Consumers will still have plenty of choice, and get more bang for their bucks.

In addition to delivering consumer choice, the standards, just as we've seen withenvironmental safeguards in the past, can have a powerful and beneficial effect on the market by driving innovation and creating new opportunities for American workers and companies. Auto sales and profits are up this year, while the first half of 2012 has set the record for the highest-ever fuel efficiency for new vehicles in American automotive history. Auto industry jobs have grown by 24 percent since 2009, adding 150,000 jobs in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing, according to official Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Finalizing the 54.5 mpg standards will lead to even more jobs, as the auto industry, encouraged by the certainty provided by the new standards, continues its push to develop innovative technologies and manufacture new, efficient products. As my colleague Roland Hwang points out, “America no longer has to cede fuel-sipping technological manufacturing to the European and Japanese markets.” Car companies are even moving production of hybrids, battery packs, and components like start/stop engine starters back to the United States in a remarkable "onshoring" trend.

Last, and certainly not least, the environmental benefits of this rule are impressive. The gas savings we will achieve as a nation by 2030 will allow us to cut oil imports by one-third, and reduce carbon pollution equal to the emissions from 90 million cars.

Compare this striking accomplishment with what the House Republicans have done this week, in the same arena. The House just passed a sweeping, radical bill that would block mileage standards from going forward for years. The bill would impose a moratorium on new standards of any kind -- even if they will create jobs and are supported by industry. Fortunately, that bill won’t become law, but its passage provides a telling contrast in approaches to governance: rather than forging agreements that result in widespread benefits to the nation as a whole, members of the House appear to be working toward a goal of shutting down the government's ability to accomplish anything.  

By embracing fuel efficiency, the administration has found common ground between many disparate groups. About a year ago, I attended a White House ceremony announcing the new standards, where the president spoke alongside members of United Auto Workers, the heads of Detroit's Big Three, EPA officials, state legislators and members of Congress. All these groups put their shoulders to the wheel and decided to do what's best for the country, now and for the future. The results of this historic agreement are already proving to be a win for consumers, for the auto industry, for American workers and for the environment. We will be seeing the benefits of this historic rule for decades to come.

Posted In: Auto, Natural Resources Defense Council

This blog was written by Natasha Patel, communications intern for the BlueGreen Alliance.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that the controversial chemical found in plastics known as bisphenol A (BPA) is now banned for use in baby bottles and sippy cups.

The American Chemistry Council pushed for the move back in October to alleviate any concerns from consumers regarding the negative effects of BPA resins found in infant products such as bottles, sippy cups, lids, and closures.

BPA has had a negative history with consumer advocacy groups due to studies that highlight the possible linkage between hormone disruption and cancer, obesity, reproductive, and developmental problems in children and adults.

While an impressive move by the FDA, BPA remains legal in most food packaging products. The decision to remove it or not is with the companies who use it in their packing; some companies — such as canned food manufactures — have completely removed BPA from their lining, other companies still widely use it.

According to a news release from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) — a BlueGreen Alliance partner — by Dr. Sarah Jannsen, this ban will offer only “limited protections” against the chemical. She calls the attempt by the FDA “half-hearted” and urges them to ban BPA from all food packaging to fully protect the health of both children and adults. 

Posted In: Work, Environment and Public Health, Natural Resources Defense Council

This post is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

There’s a great story in Bloomberg News about how the new fuel-efficient Dodge Dart is bringing 6,000 jobs to Belvidere, IL.  However, a key point missing from the story is the basic fact that the Dart returns Chrysler back to competitiveness in the all-important fuel efficient compact car segment.  Yes, it’s fuel efficiency that is driving increased demand for cars among American consumers, as recent sales figures and consumer surveys have shown. 

But first, let’s review the positive news out of Belvidere:

Chrysler, under the control of Italy’s Fiat SpA (F), has surged back to health since its 2009 bankruptcy and government bailout, and it’s bringing Belvidere along for the ride. The factory completes hiring for a third crew this month, which will bring it to 4,500 workers cranking out vehicles 120 hours a week. It employed as few as 200 people three years ago… Chrysler's investment will bring total employment by the automaker and its suppliers in the region to 6,000, according to the area's economic development group.

The surge of hiring in Belvidere is a direct result of Chrysler’s expectations of major sales growth in fuel-efficient compact cars. The Dodge Dart represents Chrysler’s opening bid to capture market share in this hotly-contested segment.  With an EPA-rated maximum of 39 miles per gallon highway (including an expected 41 MPG for the optional Aero package) the Dart ranks with the mileage leaders in the compact, or C segment.

Consumers have clearly expressed their desire for fuel efficient cars, with a recentConsumer Reports survey showing that consumers rank fuel efficiency as their #1 priority when purchasing a new vehicle.  A shift in priorities is taking place among American car buyers, and automakers are responding with ever-more fuel efficient products to meet that demand.

This new bumper crop of fuel-efficient cars and surging consumers for fuel sippers clearly demonstrates the wisdom of setting long-term fuel efficiency standards.  Model year 2012 is the first year of the new carbon pollution and fuel-efficiency standard program that was originally agreed to in 2009 and requires the average fuel efficiency to gradually increase until it hits 35.5 mpg in 2016.

These new standards are doing exactly what they are supposed to do: deliver the fuel-efficient cars that consumers clearly want. The fuel-efficiency product pipeline will continue because this August, the Obama Administration is expected to finalize the second phase of the rule that will double the fuel efficiency of today’s car to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg. 

With a heated competition among auto manufacturers to claim the “most efficient” title in the compact car segment underway, consumers and manufacturers alike benefit, and our nation can look forward to more win-win job creation stories like this one out of Belvidere.

Posted In: Auto, Natural Resources Defense Council

This blog is cross-posted from the Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC) Switchboard.

Henry Ford blew away the competition--and arguably changed the world--when his company developed an assembly line to build Model T cars. By making his operations more efficient, Ford and his engineers cut production time down from 12.5 hours to 1.5 hours for each car, dramatically boosting output. Efficiency brought down the price of a car so fast that within a few years, the automobile was no longer a toy for the wealthy, but within the reach of Ford's assembly line workers.

Today, cars everywhere are still built on assembly lines, and efficiency continues to be a critical strategy for manufacturers. Efficiency is also a smart strategy for our nation as a whole, helping us conserve valuable resources, reduce costs for consumers and businesses, and strengthen our economy. That's why the Department of Energy recently announced $54 million in grants for projects that enhance energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector.

Many of the energy efficiency strategies we hear about--like better light bulbs or fuel-efficient cars--target consumer products. But industrial production consumes about one-third of all the energy produced in the United States; so becoming more efficient in the way we build those products is also critical. Efficient manufacturing not only saves energy for the entire country, it reduces costs for manufacturers and makes them more competitive--helping them keep more manufacturing jobs at home.

Several of the 13 projects awarded DOE funding have applications in the vehicle industry, such as GM's new process for manufacturing car doors. Normally this is a multi-step process, involving multiple components and several machines that roll out, cut, stamp and mold carbon steel. GM has been developing a new, integrated process that uses a lightweight magnesium alloy to make doors. The streamlined process uses half the energy of the conventional method. On top of that, it makes car doors that are 60 percent lighter, helping GM's fleet meet federal fuel efficiency standards. (These fuel efficiency standards alone will help cut gas costs in half for drivers, while generating as much as $300 billion in revenue for Detroit's automakers.)

Efficiency is a smart investment from which any business can profit. Fifteen years ago, NRDC worked with Dow Chemical to improve operations in its Midland, Michigan, facility, reducing pollution 43 percent and saving the company $5 million annually. Today, we're working with the fashion industry to improve textile manufacturing in China, helping manufacturers save fuel, water, and raw materials while reducing pollution. The Redbud Textile Company in Changshu, China, adopted just three of NRDC's recommended strategies, with a one-time cost of $72,000, and is now saving nearly $840,000 per year.

In some cases, finding efficiency might be as simple as replacing a leaky valve. But in more modern industries, a big efficiency gain might require a game-changing manufacturing leap--like an entirely new way of making car doors. We don’t know where the next innovation is going to come from, so providing incentives across a number of industries is key. The Department of Energy has just done that, selecting  projects that could have applications in the manufacturing of aircraft and vehicles, lighting and electronics, plastics and petrochemicals, iron and steel, paper and batteries, to name a few. Other projects have benefits across many industries, such as a process that uses bacteria to turn factory wastes into electricity and other useful products, which is expected to save 40 trillion BtUs of energy and offset 6 million tons of global warming pollution each year.   

Manufacturing and innovation have long been America’s strengths. Programs like these, which provide critical support for American entrepreneurs, play to our strengths and help keep American industry competitive in today’s globalized world. If we can provide the nudge that leads to the next great leap in industrial innovation, the payoff will be well worth it.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America, Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Defense Council
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