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Editor's Note

IHEs Step Up Conservation Efforts

University Business, Feb 2005

There are many people in this country--and around the world--who assert that oil is the underlying motivator for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The argument goes like this: Bush is an oil guy, from an oil state, has oil friends, and Iraq possesses an estimated 112-billion barrels of known oil reserves under its sand--second only to Saudi Arabia in the global reserve rankings.

And just as many people dismiss that assertion as nonsense--another in a long-list of conspiracy theories that have no basis for support.

I have no special insight or opinion on the debate and, I have not read about any beltway paper trails that support the invasion-for-oil conspiracy position.

The Iraq-oil issue came to mind after editing "Green Expectations," this month's cover story. Associate Editor Alana Klein investigated how IHEs are stepping-up environmental action by implementing many innovative steps to reduce energy consumption, cut harmful emissions and use eco-friendly cleaning solvents, as well as implement other "green" initiatives. There's Carleton College (Minn.) that was instrumental in building a wind turbine in the community. There's the University of South Carolina and Middlebury College (Vt.) that built green dorms and buildings. Talk about innovative, the University of Georgia constructed a turf roof on top of a building to absorb run-off water and conserve energy. And the University of Maine switched from toxic cleaning products to eco-friendly products.

The article is a must-read for administrators, because who better to promote environmental action--and awareness--than our colleges and universities? Not only are their financial benefits (cost savings) for going green, but the upshot is that students see eco-action initiatives first-hand that, hopefully, will spur them to think green as individuals, civic leaders, and business professionals.

Global consumption of coal, gas,
and oil increased by 720 percent
between 1961 and 2001.

Let's take a peek at some facts. The U.S. consumes about seven billion barrels of oil per year. We domestically produce three billion barrels, and rely on foreign sources for the remaining four billion barrels. We obtain about 12 percent of our imported oil supply from Middle East counties. And as we know all to well, any destabilizing event in the Middle East sends global oil prices into a frenzy--which directly effects our economy's bottom line.

Estimates say the U.S. consumes somewhere on the order of 23 to 30 percent of the world's produced natural resources. Couple that with more competition for resources from China (9.9 percent annual growth), India (8.4 percent), South American countries, etc, and you can see that competition will only increase for the world's limited natural resources.

I read that global consumption of coal, gas, and oil increased by 720 percent between 1961 and 2001. CNN cited an ExxonMobile Corp. report that predicted that carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 3.5 billion tons, or 50 percent, by the year 2020--80 percent of those extra tons will be driven by developing countries. Toss in more automobiles, expected to grow to 50 cars per 1,000 people by 2020, up from 15 cars for every 1,000 people in the world today, and you can see the escalating energy problems we will all have to face.

In his inaugural speech last month, President Bush talked about ending tyranny worldwide and devoting his second term to establishing freedom in oppressed countries. A noble stance, indeed. But my concern is that the increasing competition over limited natural resources may very well spur increased violence and tyranny throughout the world.

Unless we step up our efforts to both conserve energy and find new alternative--and innovative--methods to feed our energy demands, we'll face serious consequences.

IHEs certainly can lead the way and I am impressed with the initiatives that are currently under way in our colleges and universities. Let's keep it going, and please share with me any environmental or green initiatives at your institution. I'll share them with readers in a follow-up article at a later date.

University Business welcomes reader feedback. You can write to Tom Halligan at

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