High-tech reps educate about energy

The high-tech industry has a simple message for anyone following the energy crisis in California: Don't blame us.

When inaccurate numbers about the industry's electricity consumption began popping up in speeches by government leaders and in the mainstream media, three organizations — the AeA, the Electronic Industries Alliance and the Information Technology Industry Council — formed a high-tech energy working group to educate the misinformed.

The falsehoods included a misstatement that the Internet-related share of the national electricity demand was 8 percent, but it's really about 3 percent.

"We have no agenda on policy issues," John Palafoutas, senior vice president for domestic policy and congressional affairs at the AeA, said during a Wednesday briefing. "This is educational rather than defensive."

The group has had briefings with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy group and with Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham's office. Palafoutas said the group would not begin talking to individual members of Congress until after Cheney's much-anticipated plan is released.

"Our goal in these briefings is not to make policy recommendations but for the high-tech industry to work with the administration and Congress because of the tremendous effect it's having on us," he said.

Stephen Harper, the working group's co-chairman and director of environmental health and safety at Intel Corp., said the rolling blackouts being used to conserve energy in California are crippling the high-tech companies in the state, and they did not deserve to be blamed for the problem.

"We didn't want to be singled out as villains when we're not," Harper said. "The information was more propaganda, and was being accepted as truth."

David Isaacs, manager of government policy at Hewlett-Packard Co. and the group's other co-chairman, presented a number of statistics that showed the high-tech industry's electricity use for manufacturing is significantly less than other industries, including those involving chemicals, primary metal, food and paper manufacturing.

Isaacs also cited a 1998 AeA study that found California to have the lowest state electricity usage per person. "If California is efficient and it's having problems, this is something the nation needs to be aware of," he said.

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