The eighth sustainable myth we have found from Michael Lemonick is that new technology is always the answer.
Myth 8: New technology is always the answer.
Not necessarily. During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama made the tactical mistake of pointing out that proper tire inflation could save Americans millions of gallons of gasoline through better fuel economy. The Republicans ridiculed him, just as they did President Jimmy Carter for appearing on TV in a sweater during the energy crisis of the late 1970s. Both Carter and Obama were right, however (California’s Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for proper tire inflation as well).
In other words, sometimes existing technology can make a huge difference. Sometimes it takes a creative business model. Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, for example, wants to electrify the world’s car fleet—widely acknowledged as a big step toward cutting down carbon emissions—not by inventing a battery that gets 200 miles on a charge but by inventing a better system for letting drivers go as far as they want without recharging. His proposal, which has been adopted on a pilot basis by Israel and Denmark, would create battery exchange stations along highways, analogous to the gas canister exchanges that people now use for barbecue grills. What do you do if you are out on the road and your battery is running low? You pull into a station, your dead battery is swapped for a fully charged one and you’re on the road again in a few minutes.
“He’s delivering distance, not better batteries,” says Mark Lee, CEO of the London consulting firm SustainAbility. “There’s an Italian utility that’s selling its customers hot water, not energy to heat water. It’s a different way of measuring, and it gives the company an incentive to be more efficient so it can be more profitable.”