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Something in the Air Tonight

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Dear Monte:

So there you are, sitting in your home office, fuming over the recent developments concerning AmSmelt’s “green smelting” initiative, when 7-year-old Monte Jr. trundles in. He’s anxious, he’s upset, he’s bereft. Tears are streaming down his cheeks.

“What’s wrong, Big Man?” you ask, plopping him on your lap.

“The ice caps are melting,” he sniffles. “The polar bears are dying,” he whimpers. “And you know what, Dad? It’s all your fault.”

Yes Monte, it’s all your fault. For as you soon discover, the teachers at his ever-so-progressive
private school (tuition: $24k per annum) have been showing him An Inconvenient Truth again.

It’s the fifth time this month.

And as the smoke pours out of your ears, it occurs to you that it’s bad enough that fathers are almost universally portrayed as incompetent dolts in popular entertainment these days. (See The Berenstain Bears, Finding Nemo, The World According to Jim, Little Miss Sunshine, etc., etc., ad infinitum.) But now, in addition, you’re also getting tagged as the destroyer of Mother Earth.

From one father to another, Monte, I sympathize. (As my 13-year-old son is so fond of taunting me:
“If you want respect, go download an Aretha Franklin album.”) But as your PR guy, I’d rather deal with something where we can make a difference — as in the environmental problems you were dealing with already when Monte Jr. walked in.

As I read your e-mail, it seems that AmSmelt board directors Otto and Carl (the founder’s twin 65-year-old sons) look upon your “green smelting” initiative as an opportunity to smelt a little “green” of their own. 

Their plan is to ask the board to set up a private company that will sell carbon offset credits to AmSmelt, which will then be used to plant trees on a property adjoining your Louisiana smelting complex, which will eventually be developed into an upscale Indian resort/casino complex with a 19-hole PGA
par-five golf course.

This is, as you point out, a potential disaster. If anybody gets wind of Otto and Carl’s little scheme, it’ll result in the kind of toxic publicity that takes years to clean up. (Which is also quite possibly the reason a Google search for “carbon offsets” and “scam” returns 69,000 Web pages.) And let’s face it, Monte: Despite all of AmSmelt’s creditable environmental initiatives this past year — reducing emissions, recycling waste, co-generating electricity, and even banning bottled water — the really inconvenient truth here is that even if you manage to quash this, you’ll still have to contend with the guys at (When last I looked, they’d linked to aerial views of your three homes, and they’re tracking the comings and goings of the AmSmelt jet via

So, short of putting Al Gore — or Monte Jr. — on the board of directors, what’s the solution here? My advice is to recycle. Yes, let’s recycle an old idea of yours, known as “the preemptive strike.” At the next board meeting, before Carl and Otto have a chance to speak, announce that you’re buying that property to turn it over to the Natural Resources Defense Council as a nature preserve. And then, after you take a deep breath, declare that it’s going to be named in honor of their father, AmSmelt’s founder.

I’ve already written the press release and made the arrangements with all the interested parties — including the twins’ 87-year-old mother, who I hear is very concerned about climate change.

I’ll be in touch –

The Biffster.

PS: With Monte Jr.’s spring vacation coming up, perhaps you should invite his classmates — along with his teachers — to the dedication ceremony. By train. I hear it’s carbon neutral. Yr thoughts, pls...

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