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Week of 31 May 2021: Energy Decision Caution

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As I wrap up the energy columns for this month, I wanted to leave you with a few words of caution.

As far as technical subjects are concerned, I know of no other technical subject that has as widespread of a dialogue in the popular press than energy. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is an expert. From people's energy perceptions, decisions are made on what kind of vehicle to buy, what source of electricity is acceptable, and what products' requirements mean for energy consumption in their manufacturing processes.

Subjects with wide circulation suffer from at least two problems. First, everyone has an opinion, and they are sure they are correct. Their opinion is backed up with an anecdote or a quote from an "authority."

Besides having an opinion, everyone has a perception. Today, that perception could be something like, "Did you know they use COAL for energy in their mill?" Another perception which I think the public has is that energy plants, no matter the fuel, belch emissions with abandon just like they did seventy or eighty years ago. The public has no idea the regulations, monitoring and testing that goes on today. Those with the microphone seem to often have an agenda of making sure these improvements are not well known.

Dangerously, perceptions may affect the marketing of your products.

Yet, you still must follow sound science, engineering and economic principles in your decisions concerning your current energy sources (maintain, expand, abandon) and any new sources (cost of installation and operation; security of supply).

Energy decisions today are much tougher than they were back when I started my career. In those days, the public did not care about energy sources except to the extent that they were available, plentiful and cheap. I used to walk down to the local gas station when I was about 10 and get a gallon of leaded gasoline for an engine I was playing with. Did this for a quarter and had change left over. Just think about how many things in that sentence you just read are not possible today!

The same is true in business today. Energy decisions are fraught with many problems and business dangers.

And, of course, all the decision issues are not on the negative side, either. With modern heat recovery methods, there are possible lost opportunity issues as well. If your competition figures these out before or in a more innovative way than you do, that is a competitive problem for you.

Bottom line, today's energy decisions involve many factors and aspects. For success, you need to make them in as informed a manner as possible.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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