Work to Do on Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Christopher Hankin photo

President Obama today is set to unveil his climate action plan – a 21-page white paper intended to serve as a roadmap to reduced greenhouse gas emissions across myriad economic sectors.  (Watch his speech live -- happening now.)  The White House plan has three pillars: 

  • Cut carbon pollution in America
  • Prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change; and,
  • Lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts.


Climate change represents one of our greatest challenges of our time, but it is a challenge uniquely suited to America’s strengths.  Our scientists will design new fuels, and our farmers will grow them.  Our engineers to devise new sources of energy, our workers will build them, and our businesses will sell them (sic).  All of us will need to do our part.  If we embrace this challenge, we will not just create new jobs and new industries and keep America on the cutting edge; we will save lives, protect and preserve our treasured natural resources, cities, and coastlines for future generations.


We share the president’s belief, and think innovation and technology must be at the heart of long-term energy solutions.  The tech sector has worked consistently to advance initiatives that help to drive sustainable growth through technology-enabled energy efficiency and clean energy innovation across every sector of our economy.  We understand that only a clean energy innovation strategy can drive the development of affordable, low-emission options to address the challenge of global climate change. 

Technology provides the platform to empower people, businesses, and governments to turn the alarming trajectory of harmful emissions and wasted energy.  It’s the only way to reverse the math, as Google’s Eric Schmidt pointed out recently.  We lean heavily on the benefits of constantly evolving technologies that improve efficiency and productivity.  We believe that we can continue to transform how the world lives, works, and plays while reducing the carbon legacy we all leave for future generations.  Importantly, this approach will help to drive economic growth across the global economy.  Each new advancement creates new job opportunities and accelerates the development of new industries.  We enhance existing industries so they can thrive in a more sustainable economic and environmental framework.

In reading through the blueprint, what becomes evident quickly is how limited it is, as, under law, the president’s actions largely are restricted to regulatory steps.  The urgent need for the Administration and the Congress to come together on an innovation-focused climate strategy is made that much more apparent.  Major climate and energy sustainability achievements will not occur through regulatory actions alone.  The U.S. government – both the executive and legislative branches – and like-minded governments around the world must join with businesses, consumers, and stakeholder groups to work together toward the common good.

The president’s white paper is welcome, but we have to shift to a broader innovation and collaboration strategy.  In the energy efficiency area, this should begin with rapid enactment of both the Shaheen/Portman bill (S. 761) and the Eshoo/Rogers bill (H.R. 540).  More broadly, it means taking a new look at how industry and the U.S. government can better fast-track transformative energy innovation.


Key Facts:  Tech and Energy Sustainability

  • The technology sector represents two percent of the global carbon footprint, but is revolutionizing how businesses, consumers, and governments decrease their carbon footprint worldwide while increasing productivity through smart homes, smart buildings, and smart grids.
  • It’s estimated that, for every one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used by the tech sector, six to 14 kWhs of electricity are saved in the overall economy -- or 10 kWhs on average.
  • The use of smart technologies could reduce U.S. CO2 emissions by as much as 22 percent by 2020 – that’s $240 billion in cost savings or a reduction of 36 percent in imported oil.  Globally, smart technologies can reduce CO2 by as much as 15 percent.
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