Certain industries are naturally more carbon intensive than others. It takes a lot of energy to run a food processing plant (how we get flash-frozen fruits and veggies) or an aluminum manufacturer (where airplane manufacturers purchase their lightweight, high-tech building materials). These industries, labeled by the Governor as large emitters, are also cornerstones of our successful economic base. And they will never be carbon neutral. They can, however, strive to improve their processes and become as efficient as possible.
Take Inland Empire Paper Company, a Spokane-based paper company in operation since 1911. The business has 137 employees, including 87 union workers, and supports another 500 indirect jobs. This could be the profile of any number of manufacturing companies; aside from their often large tax base and direct employment opportunities, manufacturing has a multiplier effect. For every person employed by a manufacturer, three other people are employed by related companies.
But, Inland Empire Paper isn’t just a long-standing employer in the state’s East side. They are one of the most modern newsprint facilities in the world. Over the past 15 years, the company undertook a modernization program that has provided significant cost savings and environmental benefits. As a result of these investments, they’ve seen major achievements, which include:
- Reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 30,000 tons per year
- Reduction of the mill’s natural gas consumption by 77%, which alone reduced mill-wide emissions associated with natural gas consumption between 58 to 75%
- The ability to generate green power from biomass
- The installation of an algae-based water treatment technology (which not only protects our water, but stores carbon)
These achievements are only a sampling of their efforts, which also include the installation of an energy efficient paper making machine (one of the newest of its kind in North America), responsible stewardship of its 116,000 acres of forest (which has its own environmental benefits), water conservation programs and aggressive recycling initiatives.
Even after efforts such as these, businesses across the state find themselves targets of a tax designed to punish. Washington state businesses have improved their processes and reduced their carbon emissions because they want to remain competitive and they value the environment in which we live.
It doesn’t have to be the environment or the economy. Our state can, and does, have both.