‘Black Liquor’ Intoxicating for Paper Plants?

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Letter to the Editor:

The report, Paper industry pushed further into the black by ‘black liquor’ tax credits, about bio-fuel tax credits deserves a swift response on behalf of the 95,000 domestic paper industry workers employed in 44 states we represent as the United Steelworkers (USW). Let me give you a different take.

The paper industry is the largest user of biofuel in America’s industrial economy. The power it generates represents billions of kilowatts to run the industry’s own operations; kilowatts that otherwise would be supplied mostly by coal fired power plants. In addition, many pulp and paper mills sell substantial power back to the grid, further reducing the need for conventional power.

Biomass energy is green energy. When the fuel base is managed properly, unlike fossil fuel, bio-fuel is carbon neutral. Pulp and paper mills not only use biomass as fuel, it is their main raw material to make products that keep carbon out of the atmosphere for months, years, or in some cases generations.

The bias against tax credits for already-existing industries is an example of the same mentality as shown by those states or local jurisdictions that spend millions of dollars per job created to attract new industries, but won’t spend one single dime to preserve tens of thousands of endangered, family-supportive jobs that already exist.


Cellulosic biomass has enormous potential as a green carbon-neutral fuel. The technologies are still young. Would it not be better to put our pulp and paper mills to work creating the fuels of the future, alongside the work they already do making the books and boxes, school papers, and all the other products we need?

In a global marketplace with unemployment effectively at 17 percent, and the need to transition to green energy, favorable tax treatment is good policy. We cannot afford to do otherwise. The cost of shutdowns, dependency on foreign imports and the permanent loss of good jobs would end up a far higher cost to our economy.

Sincerely,

Leo W. Gerard
International President
United Steelworkers (USW)
Pittsburgh, PA

© 2011, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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