Wal-Mart, GE, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Wal-Mart has submittted an 11-page position statement to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). You read that correctly. Wal-Mart formally commented on a regional governmental project designed to find acceptable means of setting and achieving greenhouse gas emission reduction limits over a large portion of the US. From the RGGI website: "The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI or "ReGGIe") is a cooperative effort by 9 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to discuss the design of a regional cap-and-trade program initially covering carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the region. In the future, RGGI may be extended to include other sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and greenhouse gases other than CO2". The list of organizations sending comments to the RGGI is lengthy, but does not include USEPA or USDOE. As the US Federal government does not yet "do" climate, it falls upon consortia of states and local government, industries, and NGO's to do the heavy planning.We looked at several of the submissions: as exciting reading as a pile software user agreements. The Wal-Mart comments, however, had some intriguing background information. See the paraphrased list below for some details. We added the link.

• Over 2,000 Wal-Mart stores have skylights and auto-dimming for interior lights.
• T-8 lighting is standard in all new stores and will be retrofit to older ones. (The best T-8s accomplish a 15 to 20 percent energy savings and have other benefits as well.)
• Where climate is suitable, white reflective "cool roof" membranes are deployed to achieve a 10% reduction in cooling load.
• HVAC units have high SEER ratings.
• New store signs and replacement signs at old stores use LEDs.
• Heavy trucks are getting auxiliary power units so engines can be off when vehicles are not in motion, which will reduce 10,000 metric tons of GHG emission per year when the project is complete.
• The corporate fleet is adding hybrid vehicles and fuel-efficient tires.
• The corporation is funding research and development for added truck efficiency in the areas of hybrid diesel, fuel cell, and biodiesel engines.
• Work is under way to reduce packaging size, which reduces trucking, which lowers GHG emissions.

Based on several of these technologies, industrial engineers might estimate the incremental return on capital employed (ROCE) per square foot of retail space, for example. The driving down of operating cost (and commensurate GHG emissions) through these and other technologies may eventually have to be matched by competing retailers wishing to achieve profits that investors come to expect from Wal-Mart. A full expression could be slow, given its beginnings in the long sleep over energy cost and climate change. As one after another industry sector awakens (call it the Rip Van Winkle effect), they will find that important policy models and technology standards have been developed and proven, giving "first in" advantage to early collaborators.

Perhaps the following quote from the Wal-Mart RGGI submission gives us an insight into a successful business strategy, deployed as eco=efficiency matures from academic theory to powerful driver of competition.

"Wal-Mart wants to work with government at all levels to promote a common, consistent set of policies across the United States that will encourage and reward those businesses that are prepared to act to reduce the threat of global climate change and thereby advance the interests of consumers, the economy and our planet. These comments are offered in that spirit."

The 'invisible hand ", un-gloved, may become greener than we imagined. Kudos to "ReGGIe" and encouragement to Wal-Mart. Best of luck, also, to GE, maker of high performing T-8 lights (see GE promotional material here, as PDF file).

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