Ok, I’m an engineer so I am a geek at heart. A fellow tinker I know introduced me to the entertaining prose of Make magazine. In one volume last year, Saul Griffith makes the case that the world’s recent economic downturn has an upside for the planet. He illustrates that in every major downturn of the last 100 years, US energy consumption takes a corresponding dip. At the end of the article, he challenges readers to make sure that the peak of US energy consumption in 2008, be the highest peak forever. He challenges us to make wiser decisions in our energy usage.
Although I don’t think that 2008 will turn out to be the peak of US energy, I do celebrate the sentiment. Every aspect of our economy uses energy, and thus it follows that as the economy grows so does our use of energy. However, this does not have to be the case. We can look at every sector of the economy and look at ways to accomplish the same work with less energy, just as we have with labor over the last 50 years. At the EWI Energy Center, we are looking at how to drive energy usage out of our manufacturing processes. Whether that means reducing the power used in making steel, or using less steel in our products, we can make a difference in the energy usage of our economy.