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Week of 20 May 2024: How to impact energy usage within and outside the industry

Email Jim at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com

Worldwide, the overall energy policy in place is derived from ideas one hundred years or more old. For the last century, all we have been doing is putting band aides on this, leaving us with a mishmash of regulations that do nothing to make a consistent, effective policy.

We will just focus on highway transportation here and ponder a bit how a sane policy in this corner of the energy world would have a profound impact on energy usage everywhere, even inside our mills.

The cost of travel on highways should be based on three factors: the weight of the vehicle, the distance traveled, and, in some cases such as metropolitan areas, the time of day.

The cost of travel should not be based on the style of vehicle (auto, truck, bicycle, etc.) or the type of energy source (electric, petroleum, muscle, etc.).

Now, legislators and activists who want to promote their favorite energy source and demote others will want to tweak this, but that only messes with the purity of the scheme.

Back when we got off the horse and got into a powered vehicle, we did not have the mechanisms to measure usage the way I have described but today we do. We can easily measure the metrics that I have outlined and charge for them accordingly--weight, distance, time are the only three attributes to measure. These are engineering values that require no other adjustments.

And no more government aid to construct highway systems--those who use them pay for them through the schemes I have described above.

Every one of us will likely drastically change our transportation habits if these protocols were in place.

And this will drastically affect the products we make in the paper industry, for our packaging products are often in the "tare" calculation of the weight of a truck. We will develop stronger and thinner containerboards. We will likely compete better with plastics. We will finally knock off wood pallets.

Containerboard, for instance, is already the lightest, strongest shipping material available. Properly accounting for shipping costs will further improve its competitiveness.

What is the likelihood we will ever do this? Zero. But remember, any time you bring this up and encounter anyone who is resistant to these changes, their resistance is likely because such a move would gore their favorite subsidy.

In my mind, at least, engineering and scientific principles always prevail. Anything else is a manipulation of the laws of nature.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

________

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