I'm back! I have been involved for the past few years in a huge development project making consumer products from industrial waste materials. The company is an environmental company, and through my exposure to the realities of the damage humanity has and continues to do to the environment, I have been somewhat transformed into an "industrial treehugger." Think of me now as an industrial environmentalist.

I have learned a lot about a lot. Protection of the environment is a reality that we are going to have to deal with. We can run but we cannot hide: the United States houses approximately 5 percent of the world population, yet we are responsible for more than 25 percent of the world's pollution. We accuse China and India of having unregulated emissions and that they will soon surpass our emissions, but aren't we somewhat responsible for their industrial growth that is causing these emissions?

There are arguments as to the extent of the damage that we have done and continue to do, but no one is arguing or stating that we have not done any damage. Let's be honest: what we have consumed by way of fossil fuels and natural resources in the past 200 years is conceivably more than the cumulative consumption of these same resources from the beginning of time. And, what have we done with these resources? Well, we burned them.

Combustion generates heat, heat translates to energy -- which is why we use it -- but the reaction also releases gases into the atmosphere, some of which trap the sun's rays and cause the planet to warm up. These are the infamous greenhouse gases that not only include carbon dioxide, but methane and nitrous oxide, to mention a few. The reason that everyone refers to greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide, or just carbon, is because it is produced in far larger quantities than the others. However, the others are far more devastating and get equated to equivalent tons of carbon.

Other byproducts include gaseous oxides and solid particulates, creating additional environmental and health issues. These issues are more localized, resulting in regional acid rain and the like. Carbon, however, is a global challenge -- no borders here. I will continue to inform you on the global challenge, but that is not what this column is about. Instead, it is about our industry -- process heating. Drying is potentially the most energy-intensive unit process on the planet. So, what is the message I am sharing with you this month?

For years, professionals involved in the drying industry have urged you to run your plant more efficiently. I have written numerous articles on improving the efficiency of your dryer. I have written and read even more articles on being energy efficient. This was all under the guise of improving your productivity and reducing your energy cost -- benefits to you. Well, we need to escalate these efforts to new levels to match their new name -- changed from "being efficient" to "reducing your carbon footprint" -- and to benefit the planet as well as you.

We will need to do this, not by conscience to be environmentally responsible but because within the next few years, it will be legislated and we will all need to comply. As it stands, California has an Assembly Bill 32 that mandates a statewide cap on global-warming emissions that will begin implementation in 2012 and that by 2020 reduces emissions to 1990 levels. This is serious stuff.

Manufacturing is not going away. The need for industrial drying will never disappear. Instead, technology and systems need to be optimized. Carbon emissions need to be reduced. Corporate America needs to take action.

It's funny, though. The reality is that by implementing efficiency and productivity measures, and by reducing energy consumption, the biggest financial winners are the manufacturers. Their utility costs will be reduced, providing long-term benefits. They will have a cleaner and healthier working environment. There are numerous other benefits. It's a win-win.

So what do you do? Call your dryer manufacturer and get them in to inspect, repair and tune your system. Call a reputable consultant and have your system audited. Implement recommended changes immediately; they will have a short return on investment. Be conscious, legislators are already talking about rewards for early implementations.