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Week of 4 December 2023: Power & Energy--Make your own

Email Jim at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com

There are a group of Mennonites in southern Ohio I love dearly. I try to go visit them a couple of times a year for a few days. My next visit is planned for the weekend of 16 - 17 Dec 2023. When I get there, my phone goes off and into my bag. There is no electricity. Heat is wood. Farming and local transportation is done with horses. They do use the bus system for long-distance traveling, and they do this quite often.

Sounds inconvenient? It is the price of freedom. They couldn't care less about the grid, carbon capture and all the other things we English (that is what they call anyone not a Mennonite) find so concerning these days. Can the government impose regulations that change their lifestyle? Of course. Just like they do to us English every day, because we are dependent on others, regulated by the government, for things like power and energy.

The current path to a carbon dioxide free world is fraught with many perils. This path is upsetting a course set by John D. Rockefeller and Thomas A. Edison, not to mention the coal mine owners. I am not here today to argue about this new path but to point out that it is a brave new world, undefined and unknown, despite what the politicians tell us.

Take for example, electricity storage. The scientists and engineers in charge of such matters are pondering electricity storage in the days of wind turbines and solar panels. There is no question that such a system needs storage for the days the wind does not blow, the sun does not shine, and nights. In the old days, electricity storage was in the form of water behind hydroelectric dams. That will not be enough nor distributed in such a way that it will be adequate in the future.

One of the schemes being tossed about these days is to tap the battery in your electric vehicles attached to charging stations. There is talk of thinking about these as storage sources. In other words, your electric car or fork truck you have plugged in overnight--they are wanting to be able to tap that if they need electricity somewhere else in the grid. This, of course, gets into all sorts of power monitoring (how are they going to pay you for borrowing your stored power?) and inconveniences if you walk out in the morning and find your battery drained, not charged. Will you have to pay a premium to avoid being part of this vast battery sucking network? Who knows. If I may sound political for a moment, this reminds me of Karl Marx, who said, "From each according to his ability to each according to his need."

This is why your mill, and you personally need to think about how closely tied you may be to the jointly shared power sources. Modern virgin pulp mills are safe if the regulators don't close their boiler exhaust stacks. Others are dependent on various energy sources, the primary one today being natural gas. However, the problem here is that the gas transmission lines are old and need replacing. Will the government allow this to happen or see this as an opportunity to turn off the gas?

I once solved an energy problem in a small converting plant with inefficient gas heated dryers. The question I asked was simply this, "Who owns the mineral rights under your plant?" Turns out they did and there were already gas wells in the neighborhood (the reason I asked the question in the first place). They punched a well, and have been operating on free, independent gas for nearly twenty years. You should be so lucky. If you are, you, too, may be able to be as free as the Mennonites.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

#pulpandpaper

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