Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill to clean up the environment makes things worse instead

Hat tip to KNAU which profiled this story on air this morning (funny how public radio does a better job of investigative journalism than for profit private outfits):

"Black liquor."

That's what they call the mix of sludge that comes out of a paper mill when trees are ground to pulp.

Add some gasoline to it, and voila! A useful fuel that the paper mill can use to power itself.

At least that was the theory that Congress was operating under two years ago when they revised a 2005 bill to allow for a big tax credit for paper mills ($.50 per gallon of gasoline when blended with an alternative fuel and used internally.)

Only it may be another example of the law of unintended consequences.

Paper mills that deal with recycled paper (like the Catalyst mill near Snowflake, or in other words not that far from where I live) don't make the stuff. So they don't qualify for the big tax credit.

Which in turn means that they may have to shut down because mills that mill fresh trees are getting what amounts to a big subsidy.

Stop and think about this for a moment, folks.

The net effect of this 'alternative energy bill' will be to shut down paper mills that deal with recycled paper. Hence that will mean more logging, more paper in landfills (that's the double whammy there), more pollution (since traditional paper mills make quite a lot more than recycled paper does-- I well remember living in the beautiful community of Missoula, Montana and smelling the distinctive odor of the paper mill every morning.) You don't smell the paper mill when you're in Snowflake (though that may be because the pig farm masks it.) Throw in fuel that is used by loggers to clear roads and drive in logging equipment (not to mention the pollution that goes along with it) and I doubt if even the original intent of the bill, to save energy actually does any of that.


eaprez said...

Hi Eli...your post at details followed me to my email. I am now at and I will post a link to you once again!

Eli Blake said...

Got it. Good to see you back.