"Industry" - An American Inspiration and a Catalyst for Energy Efficiency

Think of what it’s taken you to get where you are today. Not just your own career— but the history of American industry.


“Industry,” going by a loose definition of the term—simply, the making of things used all over the world, from automobiles to airplanes to machine tools to, well, just about anything you can think of—is part of the fabric of America. It began in the homes of our colonial forefathers, providing for their individual communities, through the turning of centuries, into the high-tech processes that many of us take for granted today. We take pride in it, confident that the things we make are the product of ingenuity and plenty of hard work.


It’s also taken a lot of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), much of the energy consumed by industrial facilities comes from—HVAC, ventilation, lighting and more. The DOE estimates these support functions account for up to 33 percent of all energy consumed by manufacturing subsectors. Further, DOE estimates that annually, “U.S. manufacturing buildings used approximately 2 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) (including electricity-related losses)—more than the entire U.S. food processing industry and more than 4.4 percent of U.S. manufacturing energy consumption overall.”


Those are significant figures by any measure, and it’s a large canvas for all industrial decision makers to make strategic improvements— not only for the benefit of their own bottom line, but to be better corporate citizens and good environmental stewards.


As American industry continues to evolve, one of the most important ways it can do just that is to become more efficient, using energy more intelligently, creating the best possible output with the smartest possible input. The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes this critical part of our future, funding the research, development and demonstration of highly efficient and innovative manufacturing technologies. It’s a work in progress, but make no mistake: It’s working. In 2013, the DOE estimated that through its Better Buildings, Better Plants Program, over 1,750 manufacturing plants across the United States have saved $1 billion in energy costs and approximately 190 trillion Btu—the equivalent of around 11 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.


Elsewhere, the DOE’s American Manufacturing Office (AMO) offers services to small and medium businesses to help kickstart advanced manufacturing processes and to invest in emerging clean energy technologies. Per the office:


“Manufacturing converts a wide range of raw materials, components and parts into finished goods that meet market expectations. Game-changing investments in Advanced Manufacturing—efficient, productive, highly integrated and tightly controlled processes—have the potential to fill the innovation gap between research and full “to scale” industrial production. As an end-user sector, manufacturing is the most diverse in the U.S. economy in terms of its energy sources, foundational technologies and the products manufacturing produces. In 2012 (unless otherwise indicated), U.S. manufacturing was responsible for 12.5 percent [1] of GDP, direct employment for about 12 million people [1], and 70 percent [2] of all business R&D performed (in 2010 and 2011); and close to 75 percent [3] of U.S. exports of goods; production of 17 percent [4] of the world’s manufacturing output; and 25 percent [5] of U.S. energy use.”


All of which is to say—American industry remains a force to be reckoned with. There’s a lot to accomplish, and much of it begins with efficiency.


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