Pragmatic Beliefs

Nov. 2, 2011
Strive to Operate in a More Energy-Efficient Mode. The Results Will Be a More Efficient, Less Costly, Less Fossil-Fuel-Dependent, Cleaner Working and Living Environment
By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

I'll probably invest a couple of these columns in passing along a few highlights from Schneider Electric's annual media event, which was held just outside Chicago in October.

This one starts with a game. Ready? OK, let's play "Who's the Pragmatist?"

Most of Schneider's management team speakers exhorted the editors in attendance to encourage their respective brands' energy-consuming audiences to accept climate change (no matter what the cause) and strive to operate in a more energy-efficient mode.

Aaron Davis, Schneider's chief marketing officer, tried the argument the way 17th century French scientist, philosopher, probability fan and all-around BMOC Blaise Pascal framed his pragmatic argument about belief in God.

[pullquote]It's a two-by-two decision matrix: Columns are God exists; God doesn't exist. Rows are Belief in God; Non-belief.
So what are the potential outcomes? Pascal offers that if God exists, and you believe in God, well, it seems that there's a big payoff waiting for you down the line. If God doesn't exist and you believe God exists, then you've probably lived a decent, charitable life and have been greatly appreciated for it.

Now, if God doesn't exist and you believe God doesn't exist, it's a push. But watch out for that last one: if God exists and you don't believe, then a potentially uncomfortable eternity awaits. Only one bad outcome in four possibilities, and two pretty [darn] good ones.

The corresponding climate argument, Davis said, is this: 1) If climate change is real and we really can do something about it, but we don't change our energy producing and consuming habits, then we've screwed the planet. 2) If we can do something about it, and we choose to do so, then our successors get to live here a lot longer. 3) If we can't do anything about it, nor choose to try, then que sera, sera. 4) Even if climate change isn't real but we still try to change it, we ultimately end up with a more efficient, less costly, less fossil-fuel-dependent, cleaner working and living environment. I see two very good outcomes there.

Andy Gravitt, Schneider senior vice president for industry business, offered another pragmatic reason to be energy-efficient, even for companies with a culture driven by short-term results. Companies aren't earning any money on all the cash they've squirreled away. "So why not look at some of these opportunities that give you a real payback instead of earning 1% on equity investments?"

The fastest way to save energy overall is at point-of-use. Every unit of energy not consumed reduces energy production at the generation point by three units, given all the inefficiencies along the way.

Next time, I'll tell you about a panel discussion that included a machine builder. We spent some time talking about how sustainability and energy affects Machine Builder Nation.