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Web Letter

I used to work for International Paper and, like most companies, they have many creative people who work to take advantage of any and all opportunities presented, which unfortunately can lead to unintended negative consequences. Related to the "green" aspect of this report, IP had a printing plant (now closed) that had state-of-the-art pollution-control equipment that reduced its VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions to less than ten tons per year, as I recall. However, their permit allowed them to release 300 tons per year.

As you may guess, periodically they bypassed the pollution-control equipment in order to reach the 300-ton limit. They did this in the belief that if they didn't use their full permitted allotment, then the state would reduce their permit. They wanted to keep the level high in the off chance that they'd someday expand the plant's capacity. Rather than apply for a new permit, which was becoming more and more difficult to obtain, they preferred to keep the larger umbrella amount under which they could expand production without state approval.

I think if someone wanted to do an in-depth investigation of this "unintended" consequence, they would probably find millions of tons of pollutants released per year across many US industries.

While we are fighting global warming, it might be a good first step to encourage reality-based VOC permitting to reduce unnecessary emissions. Every little step will help.

I encourage Christopher Hayes to investigte this aspect of industrial greenhouse gases in more detail and write a report more comprehensive than my one little example.

S. Monroe

Portland , OR

Apr 13 2009 - 11:31am

Web Letter

What exactly did you expect? This is just a superficial variation of the exploit of the synfuels tax credit, where a law intended to promote energy independence provided a subsidy for coal sprayed with diesel (see the October 4, 2003, story "The Great Energy Scam" in Time). The result of this new subsidy legislation was accordingly entirely predictable.

It is proverbially said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. By that definition, supporting a law based on its intentions, rather than its text, is clearly insane. It is not for nothing that another proverb warns that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Steven Ehrbar

El Paso, TX

Apr 9 2009 - 4:31am

Web Letter

So the paper industry exploits impractical do-gooder "green" pipedreams that get written into a bill? You don't say.

People (and corporations) will find ways to take advantage of stupid legislation, get around "well-intended" regulations and do exactly the opposite of what the "geniuses" who advocate central command economics in government wanted to be done. I applaud the paper industry for illustrating the stupidity of our "betters" in DC.

Yet more than one reader here, who complains about the DMV, post office, FEMA and other government-run entities, wants his or her healthcare to be government-run. Do they think somehow it will magically be different?

Nick Byram

Sacramento, CA

Apr 7 2009 - 3:34pm

Web Letter

So, it is not just the banks and the auto industry reaping these benefits. We need to expose this more.

john molina

Chula Vista, CA

Apr 3 2009 - 2:36pm

Web Letter

In a college course "Interest Group Politics" that I took in 1967, the first day's lecture was this: at federal, state or local, levels, here and anywhere else around the world, regulating boards and commissions and their legislative committees are always dominated by people who gained their expertise within the industry being regulated. Short "reform" waves are always followed by their return to power and, collectively, they can wait longer--they don't lose their interest and drift on like reformers do.

The only long-term way around that is not to regulate.

I've seen this principle in action hundreds of times in the past forty-two years.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Apr 3 2009 - 1:45pm

Web Letter

A nice spin, but not correct in many respects. If you read the IRS notices on this credit, you will see that the mixture credit was designed to be used in any form of energy production, not just transportation. They give an example of fish-processing companies using a mixture of fish oil and diesel to produce energy in a boiler. Secondly, the companies I am familiar with have found that adding the one-tenth of one percent diesel in the black liquor has allowed them to reduce their oil use. This is due to two things. Black liquor boilers have flame stabilization oil burners, and the mixture appears to be helping to improve combustion, thus reducing overall oil use. The btu value of the fuel is also improved, thus improving overall production and allowing companies to use less oil in their separate oil boilers. At a time when the financial and auto industries are getting bailed out by the government, is there any difference in getting stimulus money to an industry which is being devastated by the recession by means of this credit? There are millions of jobs at stake if these companies go under.

Here in Maine, a traditional paper state, we have already had some bankrupcies and permanent mill closures. The credit has allowed some stuggling companies to stay afloat until the economy recovers. Not all are IP-sized, but they all employ real people who did nothing to cause this slump in paper use. The credit is simply helping to reward an industy that has led the way for years in using renewable fuels in the form of biomass boilers, hydroelectric power and black liquor. Is helping this industry survive the recession so evil as you suggest?

Gordon Grimes

Durham, ME

Apr 3 2009 - 7:14am

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