California Autos Examiner

Monday, March 03, 2008

Adding To Auto Makers Woes: Sawdust Shortage (And How the Boy Scouts Might Help)

You wouldn't think it, would you? Sawdust? It's all sadly true and just one sign of many that car prices are going to have to rise as the raw materials that create them skyrocket in price. Auto-parts manufacturers blend a finely pulverized sawdust called "wood flour" with plastic polymers to make a lightweight material to cover steering wheels and dashboards. The price of sawdust has soared since 2006, up from about $25 a ton to more than $100 in some markets. Yep, that 4x in two years: I wish that my salary did that! How can the Boy Scouts help the auto industry with their sawdust problem? Boy Scout troops in Oregon fattened their coffers in January collecting discarded Christmas trees. Troop 618 in Beaverton made $3,000 hauling trees to a lumber recycler. Troop 728 made $10,000. Not too shabby!

All of this means that wood scraps will become highly prized and in a way that's a good thing. The more waste that is either diverted out of landfills or otherwise disposed of the better! I remember my days in the logging industry, holding drip torches over giant piles of slash. These beaver lodges of wood scraps were leftover wood chunks from logging jobs and when lit (sometimes with the help of old tires) they pumped billowy plums of smoke into the air. I might have been twelve at the time, but I knew that those smoke columns weren't helping anybody. Now those same piles of slash can be chipped and sent off to wood recyclers. A much better use.

All in all, I think we are in for a tremendous rise in raw material costs. How much this will add to the price tag of future cars is anyone's guess, but it's bound to be considerable.

source: wsj

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