Airing their differences: two approaches to the environment

Preserving the environment and conserving energy are goals on parallel tracks. Discussions at the recent National Manufacturing Week offered further proof that these multifaceted issues can also be economic drivers for the plant as well — even if it is addition by subtraction in one case.


Preserving the environment and conserving energy are goals on parallel tracks. Discussions at the recent National Manufacturing Week offered further proof that these multifaceted issues can also be economic drivers for the plant as well — even if it is addition by subtraction in one case.

The EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule got grudging praise from manufacturing leaders as "an advance for environmental health,” which is modeled on the pollution credit system that helped put a dent in acid rain emissions. NAM Director of Air Quality Bryan Brendle said the new EPA rule "will cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 70% in the eastern half of the country by 2015."

The reason CAIR doesn't have manufacturing leaping for joy is the implementation costs — though industry officials contend it's better than litigation. "Though CAIR may cost industry as much as $35 billion to implement during the next decade," Brendle said, "Our biggest concern is the incessant and hugely expensive litigation that mires air quality regulation in confusion and uncertainty. Clear-cut and less-readily litigated legislation is the preferable way to address our environmental challenges, and manufacturers are very disappointed with a handful of lawmakers who stubbornly refused to put the public good over politics.

"Nonetheless, CAIR should help clarify and streamline a contradictory and overlapping mess of existing regulations that plague industry and regulators," Brendle said.

Industry leaders had pushed for passage of the so-called the Clear Skies legislation before Congress, but that was held up by what the NAM called partisan politics.

There is little disagreement that the high cost of fuel is going to have an impact this summer on manufacturing costs, which is why publication of the NAM's new Energy Efficiency, Water and Waste-Reduction Guidebook for Manufacturers is so timely.

U.S. natural gas prices have risen by nearly 120% in the last five years while the prices of manufactured products rose only 14%."These rising prices have put many manufacturers in a cost-price squeeze, cutting profits, investment and jobs," said Bill Canis, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM affiliate which produced the guidebook.

"Manufacturers can't ignore rising costs of critical commodities such as natural gas, oil and water," said former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "U.S. competitiveness depends on the ability of manufacturers and other businesses to control their energy and water costs to stay and compete in a tough global marketplace."

It's more than an issue of cost reduction for most manufacturers, however. "Beyond the financial necessity to reduce energy and water use, many manufacturers have come to understand that conserving scarce resources and limiting their impact on the environment is just the right thing to do," said Tom Gannon, executive vice president of Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls, Inc."We commend NAM for bringing forth this publication at this important time, as manufacturers emerge from a difficult recession yet continue to face rising costs for energy and other resources."

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Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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