One of the benefits of the present short term energy shortfall is the attention it throws on the enormous waste of energy by supposedly cost-conscious industrial and commercial firms. Many corporate executives will have to explain why and how they dissipated corporate resources over the years while holding out to shareholders and consumers an image of vigorous cost control efficiency.
For example, without any impairment in productive output, General Motors is reducing energy consumption at its facilities by 20 percent this winter and 15 percent the entire year.
RCA reduced fuel oil consumption by about forty-five percent at its Camden, New Jersey plant during the first half of this year. At another one of its New Jersey plants, the electronics giant cut its fuel oil intake by some 15 percent since January. ITT increased its goal of reducing energy usage from 10 percent last spring. to 20 percent for the coming year at all its industrial , subsidiaries.
THESE are samples of the almost effortless ability of corporate managers to reduce markedly their demand for fuel and electricity. Such simple steps as improving boiler efficiency, closing doors, using waste heat, turning off unneeded lights, curtailing unnecessary vehicle usage, shutting down under-utilized machinery and turning down thermostats are responsible for such reductions.
Finding out why companies waste so much energy would tell consumers and shareholders much about our waste-ridden economy generally. Leon Himmel, special assistant to ITT’s president, describes energy use in the U.S. as profligate. He says most corporate managers ignore energy costs because these costs average less than one percent of the cost of sales.
Judging by how meticulous corporate giants are in asking the subservient Cost of Living Council for price increases, there must be reasons other than careless oversight to explain such industrial wastrelism. These include inadequate disclosure of comparative energy usage, indifferent shareholders, the absence of rigorous competition in the many concentrated industries and an Administration in Washington which failed to plan for the energy problem it clearly knew was coming.
The people are not getting the facts about energy-waste which is the basis for ‘the demand being in excess of permissible supply. If the economics of France and England get along with about one-third and one-half respectively of the per capita energy consumption of this country, we should start asking why.
ARCHITECTS are documenting the fantastic energy waste (up to forty percent) inherent in the design of the large, new buildings that frame the skyline of the city. The larger of these buildings in New York or Chicago consume ‘more electricity or fuel than some smaller cities.
While the already profita ble natural gas industry engages in a limited producers’ strike over its huge gas reserves until it gets sizeable price increases, its distribution companies are reluctant to do anything about the pilot light disaster. Company officials privately admit that at least one-third of all domestic gas in homes is used by pilot lights. There are better ways available to save 900 billion cubic feet of gas per year.
Without government leadership, by its example, disclosures, and law, waste reduction to save consumers billions of dollars and reduce pollution will not be promptly implemented.
What Mr. Nixon continuously avoids doing is placing the principal burden where it belongs, on industry and commerce. The business sector not only consumes 70 percent of the nation’s energy but it designs products and buildings that make consumers also waste—from inefficient automobile engines to uninsulated residences.
Consumers must not be stampeded into accepting from Congress and a White House policies that promote price rises, lower pollution standards, and greatly understated domestic oil and gas reserves. For once these policies are passed into law, it will be a long time before they are rolled back. Let the Congress hear from you.