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Companies increase earnings by decreasing energy consumption

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GREELEY TRIBUNE |

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This is the fifth part of a five-part series from discussions at this year’s Vail Global Energy Forum.

The series

Stories about topics discussed at this year’s Vail Global Energy Forum.

Tuesday: Facts, not Furor. Discussions about our energy future should shed light, not shrieking.

Wednesday: Fracking is safe, scientists say. Science, not inflamed rhetoric, should be the basis for discussions, geophysicist says.

Thursday: Billions in business. Telling energy companies to ignore trillions of dollars is a “false choice,” former DOE official says.

Friday: China’s carbon increase offsets U.S. cuts. The U.S. is slashing emissions, but it may not be enough with China’s pollution levels.

Today: Energy efficiency pays. Cutting energy costs increases earnings for companies.

Previous days’ stories can be seen at http://www.vaildaily.com.

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The average American’s energy consumption hasn’t increased in years, said a Stanford University energy efficiency expert.

“In principle, we have the technological potential to keep total energy use in the United States from growing over the next several decades,” said Jim Sweeney with Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.

Do well, do good

Energy is a $6 trillion annual industry said Cathy Zoi, Chief Strategy Officer with C3 Energy, a Silicon Valley firm. You can profit in all sorts of ways, including efficiency, she said.

Take the local company in our company town, Vail Resorts. Mark Gasta is Chief People Officer for Vail Resorts.

“We intend for Vail Resorts to do well and to do good,” Gasta said.

Businesses are a system and none of the elements in the system are mutually exclusive, he said. If they’re considering the environmental system, but not paying attention to its human aspects, the system becomes imbalanced.

“The outdoors is our product and we have a deep passion for protecting it,” Gasta said.

On the human end of the equation, Vail Resorts has cut 10 percent from its energy consumption, and aims to cut another 10 percent by 2020.

So far this year, Vail Resorts has saved 2.2 million kilowatt hours and $200,000, Gasta said, adding that the company will save another $160,000 in electricity consumption this year.

Some of that money is passed along to investors, some is reinvested in employees, and some in more energy efficiency measures, Gasta said.

And government plays a role, said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper praised Dr. Bryan Wilson, who runs Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Laboratory. They’re working on things like energy efficiency and capturing fugitive methane from natural gas wells to use for fuel.

Colorado State University is working with Halliburton to protect water in every well they drill, Hickenlooper said.

Electric lemmings?

Energy consumption in the United States and Europe haven’t significantly increased in almost a decade, Sweeney said. The developing world, especially China and India, are quite another matter.

China’s insatiable hunger for more energy has the country opening a new coal-fired power plant almost every two weeks. The Chinese have enormous natural gas reserves and switching from coal would go a long way toward reversing their growing pollution problem, Sweeney said.

Other countries are watching how U.S. energy companies harvest shale gas and oil reserves, and will likely either buy the technology or hire U.S. based industries.

“Social norms matter. Lemmings aren’t always the only creatures following each other over a cliff,” Sweeney said.

Natural gas is the world’s present, but renewable energy is the long-term future, said Jim Brown is president of Hallilburton’s Western Hemisphere division.

Brown likes renewable energy and said Halliburton is investing in it.

“We need to continue to invest in that ultimate energy pill. This world will be around for a long, long time and natural gas is a finite resource,” Brown said. “We don’t look at ourselves at oil and gas people, we’re energy providers. Some of the money goes back into those other sources.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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