Several years ago, this column described new technology for waste heat recovery in industrial facilities using thermionic emission effects to generate electric power at up to 80% of theoretical (Carnot) efficiency. Last month, this column addressed the need and good sense to install energy-efficiency improvements for cost savings.

U.S. manufacturing industries consume 37% of total energy use and contribute 24% of national GDP. The sectors of material processing (15% of the manufacturing total) and process heating (11%), where readers of this journal tend to live, can compare themselves to other sectors: air handling 15%, pumping 13%, HVAC 12%, lighting 10%, materials handling 6% and refrigeration 5%.

These thoughts prompted a look at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report, which you can review for ideas. This report assessed pertinent, new and emerging energy-efficient technologies, 175 in all from U.S. and foreign sources, culling 54 as suitable in regard to efficiency gains, economics and environmental performance.

The emerging designator denotes both pre-commercial and near market ready, capturing 5% or less current market share. All technologies were evaluated in terms of expected total manufacturing-sector energy savings by 2015 and economic payback (immediately to over 20 years), with 31 of the 54 selected having estimated payback of three years or less and six with instant returns. Over half the 54 selections are developed to prototype stage but require added demonstration and data dissemination, while 17 require additional research and development. Over a third of the selections yield non-energy-saving benefits with features such as safety, enhanced productivity and lower first cost compared to in-use alternatives.

A review of these new technologies, which may have applicability for readers, include this short list abstracted from the ACEEE report:
  • Advanced aluminum forging
  • Improved aluminum recycling
  • Advanced compressor controls
  • BOF gas and sensible heat recovery
  • Smelting reduction processes
  • Near net shape casting/strip casting
  • Roller kiln ceramics
  • Heat-recovery technology
  • EAF furnace processes
  • Oxy-fuel combustion in reheat furnaces
  • High-efficiency low-NOx burners
Yet another information source is found at the Department of Energy site with the Industrial Technologies Program (ITP). The ITP boasts that it has assisted 220 new technologies to commercial use, helped over 16,000 plants via ITP efforts, received 156 relevant patents between 1994-2005, saved 5 Quad (quadrillion BTUs) of energy since ITP inception and helped reduce pollutant emissions by 93 million metric tons since the office opened.

Being a “government watcher,” I am impressed to see industry-oriented people with technical competence that work across the aisle with the private sector. The good work of both the DOE and private associations like the ACEEE is nice when viewed against the political backdrop of the nitwits in Congress. This thought causes me to comment on what has NOT been done in the legislative branch of government on the topic of energy-efficiency that could aid U.S. manufacturing industries.

A review of proposed and pending legislation is quite revealing. You are encouraged to check the status of bills by accessing the Library of Congress master file of all legislation at www.thomas.gov and enter the bill numbers listed below. A total of eight bills from both Houses of Congress can be reviewed, two from the House and six from the Senate.

One House bill is H.R.2454, known as the cap-and-trade bill, which passed July 7 under the rubric of aiding industrial energy efficiency. No other House bills were allowed by Speaker Pelosi to be introduced. Under the same heading are six Senate bills, all of which are useless except one (S.661), that promote everything from green jobs to loans for renewable-energy installations to extending tax relief. All these bills (S.224, S.1092, S.1462, S.1574 and S.1639) are in Committee and will not see the light of day because the Senate Majority is focused now on passing and reconciling its version of cap-and-trade.

Bill S.661, with 12 co-sponsors, has marginal merit to provide federal assistance in financing reduced-energy-consumption projects, bolster ITP projects and foster many “feel-good” studies. The only House bill regarding new energy and technology readiness is H.R.2846, which is directed toward increased domestic energy production and promotes industrial efficiency. That bill, offered by Minority Leader Boehner, will die in committee with this 111th Congress.

American manufacturers deserve better than what Congress has delivered, and failed to deliver, on the vital issues discussed here. Why not tell your elected Representative and both Senators what you think? IH