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Confirming what we've been arguing all along, a new study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company has indicated that, even with little effort (and at low cost) on the part of industry and the government, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced fairly significantly - up to 28%. Many of these slight changes would quickly pay for themselves in lower energy bills and more cost-effective technologies.
What Jack Stephenson, the study's director, describes as "negative cost opportunities" - which include potential modifications in the lighting, cooling and heating of buildings - would both lower emissions and reduce costs. He acknowledges, however, that even implementing these modest reforms will prove challenging in the short run.Consumer apathy or lack of knowledge about energy efficiency and resistance to cleaner upgrades by prominent sectors of industry mean that there is, and will continue to be, "a lot of inertia, and a lot of barriers." This despite the fact that, as Ken Ostrowski, a member of the report team, noted, "the potential is so substantial for energy efficiency . . . [it] is just staggering here in the U.S."
Though it didn't elaborate much on solutions, the report suggested a few potential fixes: rewriting rules for utilities to encourage conservation, imposing emissions limits or other government mandates and providing incentives such as tax breaks to promote efficient technologies. It did discount the merits of more complex (and expensive) techniques such as carbon capture and carbon storage, stating that they would only account for a small fraction of the potential to curtail emissions.
So what's in it for us as individuals? Well, the report explains that "lifestyle changes" could help improve our efficiency and that "broad public educations programs" could help increase awareness of the problems. Not that this is necessarily much of an issue for you or us, but such programs - if well devised and executed - could go a long ways towards cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.