The costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, to protect the environment, are well known and a major reason for the wrangling over the Kyoto climate treaty. But a new study by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change says in some cases reducing greenhouse gas can actually improve a company's competitive edge. The environmental organization examined several multinational companies that have taken steps to curb energy use.

Spokesman Eileen Clause says the companies the Pew Center studied reported decreased costs and increased ingenuity.

In case after case, she says, a company-wide search for ways to reduce energy use pushed workers to come up with new ideas. The result was a spurt both profits and innovation. "By actually doing these things I think the companies believe they can affect whatever policies emerge to control greenhouse gases because they will be viewed as the people with the experience, and all of that experience will count as governments move forward and implement policies," she said.

Judith Bayer of United Technologies, a $26 billion global producer of aerospace and industrial equipment, says her company's decision to cut energy emissions stemmed from a desire to lead the way. "We have a philosophy that says 'Be there first.' We believe in innovation but we believe in early actors," she said. "That's helped us maintain our competitive edge over the years, and therefore we wanted to be on the front edge of this issue."

Judith Bayer says United Technologies is designing products that are more energy efficient, in hopes of being on the cutting edge of product development in the future. She says the firm is also reducing its energy use. "We are setting a goal of a 25 percent reduction in our energy and water consumption as a percent of sales by the year 2007," said Judith Bayer. "And what that means is, for every dollar of sales that we generate, we are going to be more efficient in our use of energy and those sources of savings will hit directly at the bottom line."

The energy cost reductions that have resulted, Judith Bayer says, are only part of the savings. "We are also finding savings in maintenance costs," she said. "We're finding savings in tooling costs, because we're more efficient in how we use energy. There are other benefits that flow from these programs beyond the single straight-forward reduction of energy."

The other firms participating in the study all of whom reported similar benefits were ABB, IBM, Entergy, Toyota and Shell Oil.