Saturday, July 5, 2008

Utah Takes the Plunge

Utah just became the first state to close government offices on Friday, and go to a four day work week beginning August 1. The Office of the Governor estimates that 1,000 of 3,000 state buildings will be closed on Fridays, cutting energy costs by about 20 percent. Minnesota is also considering such a move.

You can read the Press Release yourself, and they also have an excel spreadsheet with more data on the energy savings from this move.

Utah used six representative office buildings in its spreadsheet to detail the savings involved:

1) The annual energy savings for the state would be $123,220, or 13,653 MBtu.

2) The annual fuel reduction for employees would be 76,840 gallons of gasoline, or $312,971.

While these savings don't seem like much, they are based on only six buildings, while 1,000 buildings will be closed. My other thoughts on this:

The employee savings must assume that employees use less gasoline on the new day off than they would in commuting to work. If they all drive to the mall and burn as much fuel as usual, then the savings will be negligible.

The state savings are significant, but probably won't impact demand for oil. I don't know numbers for Utah, but nationally very little electricity is generated by oil.

My question is this - why doesn't the Federal Government go to a four day week? The savings would exceed anything a State or City government could do.

One day our country will have an Energy Policy that is comprehensive and for the benefit of everyone, rather than the patchwork of garbage we have now. A critical part of this Energy Policy should be a mechanism to shut off some demand for Energy when it is needed to moderate the market. Supply can be shut very quickly, at the whim of a foreign government, as we have seen.

I propose Federal Legislation that would mandate a four day work week for the Federal Government, all 50 states and the twenty largest cities. This would apply only to agencies that provide non essential services. This mandate would only be triggered if some predetermined event took place in the marketplace - some examples - capacity utilization in excess of 95%, or days of inventory falling below the five year range, etc.

The purpose of this would be to give us the ability to shut down a portion of demand. While it might seem that this would be, if I may use a cliche, a drop in the bucket, in a market that uses 86 million barrels of oil a day, the ability to remove 500 thousand or one million barrels per day of demand from the market may help in a tight market. This would also be only one part of a comprehensive Energy Policy that our country is in desperate need of.

1 comment:

Jay Walker said...

Good suggestions - we'll need everything we can get to tame this global warming beast.

Jay Walker
The Confused Capitalist