A Case of Mistaken Identity

Bob TontiJoin The Conversation

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When I spoke at an environmental conference recently, the audience heard my company’s name, Rain CII Carbon, and assumed I would talk about the latest prospects for a greenhouse gas clearinghouse for carbon credits. A case of mistaken identity, since Rain CII processes solid carbon for industrial use. Fortunately, their disappointment that I wasn’t there to predict the carbon credit market’s future was short-lived when I explained what we do: we turn carbon in the form of “petroleum coke” that would otherwise be waste or a low grade fuel from oil refining into a useful product for manufacturing aluminum and many other valuable products.

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Seeking out waste (or as some might call it, inefficiency) is what business is all about. Where there is inefficiency, there’s usually a way to make money correcting it. As industry lumbers along making new products, it leaves wasted materials, energy, time and capital in its wake. Inevitably, businesses spring up to deal with those as “byproducts” in advantageous ways. This is the positive environmental impact of business.

When companies embrace recycling and efficiency, they become more profitable and environmentalists rejoice. I find that industry may see environmental protection as a cost after the fact, when in reality, environmental action should be sought or at least recognized as a solution that creates efficient and profitable operations. Environmentalists often label businesses as waste-creating entities, but the fact is, successful companies waste not.

It is too idealistic to believe that in all cases, efficiency eliminates waste and the environment benefits. But it is also true that where waste cannot be reused profitably, we need environmental regulations until we find a way to make every waste a byproduct.

I plan to write more on the synergy that should exist between profit and the environment. It is an important aspect of environmental responsibility to invest in the environment and make that investment profitable. As my environmental conference audience came to understand, even though Rain CII Carbon is sometimes mistaken for a carbon producing company, the better description may be oil refinery waste recycling company.

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