I've never met him, but I feel like I know Bob Confer, vice president of blow molder Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda, N.Y. How? Because Confer has a regular column in the Tonawanda News where he shares his opinions on a wide variety of topics. All of his columns show up in my story searches, and I always read them. Today's column happens to have a plastics angle, which is why I'm sharing it in the blog. But he's also comfortable writing about politics, the economy, and other topics of interest to local readers and the business community. Here's a taste of his July 14 column:
We've been told time and time again that the exhaust from gas-powered engines used in our vehicles contributes to the degradation of the environment. In the 1970s we were told that the excessive fumes would cool the Earth and bring on a new ice age. In the 1990s and 2000s the tune switched: The carbon dioxide would warm the Earth, melt the polar ice caps and bring on mass starvation. With Al Gore and similar Chicken Littles relentlessly driving that point home, regulatory agencies tend to overact. After all, if they don't do something, that one-degree difference in air temperature might condemn a billion people to death. That's where folks like the California Air Resource Board come in to devise some truly-ridiculous regulations. CARB somehow got it in their heads that your fuel tanks and powered-equipment not only contribute to global warming when they're running, but also when they are not. They believe that the plastic tanks and hoses used on your lawn tractor and boat breathe incredible amounts of gas fumes to the air on a non-stop basis. Sure, they might pass some gas through a vented cap or a loose-fitting hose but that's not what CARB focused on. Instead, they analyzed the gas molecules that gradually work their way through the walls of the tanks or the bodies of the hose. It sounds too nutty to be true, but the CARB people became adamant that those ultra-microscopic particles are killing the atmosphere and, in turn, polar bears. So, laws were devised in California that would stop this fiendish assault on the environment.Obviously Confer isn't the type to pull any punches. In a world where thousands of people read blogs and stories but rarely or never comment, it's refreshing to see a plastics executive who is unafraid to share his opinion. I wonder, is it good or bad for business to take a high public profile? Judging by the number of plastics executives who are starting Twitter pages, it seems like some are willing to give it a try.