LABJ FORUM - Cutting Power

Lingering terrorist threats and instability in the Middle East drove crude oil prices above $42 a barrel last week before OPEC agreed to increase output. Still, with gasoline above $2 a gallon now for the fourth consecutive month, businesses large and small are feeling the impact. Meanwhile, natural gas prices are sky-high, and electricity prices, which jolted upward a couple of years ago, haven't come down much. Add to that California's strict environmental regulations and there's plenty of incentive for businesses to cut their energy use. So the Business Journal asks:

What is your company doing to conserve energy?

Kathy Shepard
Vice President of Corporate Communications
Hilton Brand Communications

We're doing a lot of things at our hotels. We're retrofitting our lights to go to fluorescent lights, and the thermostats in our rooms that adjust the temperature if they are not occupied. We are using Energy Star appliances and have installed low-flow toilets in our bathrooms. We also have software that can track energy flow in our hotels. If we see a spike in usage, we can focus our attention on why. In the Phoenix area we have solar panels on the tops of the buildings to heat the swimming pools. In New York we have fuel cells which use less energy and emit less ozone.

David Sunkin
Vice President and General Manager
Earl Scheib Inc.

We dealt with this issue a couple of years ago. We transitioned all our paint booths and dryers; we converted them from gasoline-powered engines to electric at all of our facilities. Our primary objective was to get better equipment. It turned out we got a fair amount of rebates from Edison and they gave us a bunch of energy conservation awards. Hopefully, now with gas prices going crazy, our costs are a lot lower than they would have been.

Terry O'Neil
Director of Public Relations
Ralphs Grocery Co.

Several years ago when the state was going through the brownouts, all of our stores began a very comprehensive outfitting of the latest technology. We have electronic systems that control the lighting based on the light that comes through the skylights. All of our freezers are electronically controlled to conserve as much energy as possible. In addition, we train our employees. Our supermarkets use a great amount of energy so it makes good business sense to conserve it. In our fleets, we use technology to get the most miles per gallon as well as to reduce emissions.

Paul Hortobagyi
General Manager
Georgian Hotel

We have encouraged our associates to do ridesharing. We also issue bus tickets to employees and are promoting Ride Your Bicycle to Work Day. Those people who do are eligible for raffle prizes. Years ago, we instituted the Clean Earth program, so guests are reusing their towels, same thing with sheets. We have more energy-saving light bulbs. We're going to go through a $1 million remodeling of the hotel. In the process, we'll change out 56 of our standard bathrooms with water conserving toilets and showerheads.

Michael Krouse
Director of Sales and Marketing
Millennium Biltmore Hotel

We are in the process of changing what we call the chillers, an outdated Freon-based cooling system in the building. We're investing $1 million in that project. We do not do our laundry here. We send it out to one central plant, which also reduces our cost and our power usage. We re-outfitted our guest rooms with energy efficient lighting. We don't do any major cleaning during peak hours, only after hours, and we have recycling programs.

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