Waste-to-energy works in Europe and Asia, why not play bigger role in US energy independence?

The Saint ReportEnergy, Environmental Planning, Saint Consulting Links, saintblog, Waste0 Comments

By Peter Bellomo,
SVP Marketing and Business Development, The Saint Consulting Group

Congress is currently reviewing pending renewable energy legislation (Waxman bill) that will define among other things the role of energy recovery from waste on the national stage.

shetland waste to energy plantToday there are as many as 400 waste-to-energy facilities operating in Western Europe and another 325 in Asia. Several of these facilities are located within densely populated urban areas like Paris.

Here in the US we have something less than 90 active facilities many of which were built in the 80’s and early 90’s when technology was far less advanced than it is today. In fact, at the North American Waste to Energy Conference this week in Virginia, it was disclosed that there are more than 100 new Energy from Waste facilities being planned in Europe by 2012.

So what are we missing here? Has the rest of the world found viable solutions for energy generation from a consistently available resource that we seem to have overlooked?

There are certain truisms that we need to acknowledge. Everybody loves that fact that we pick up their trash. However, no one wants us to put it down anywhere. Today there is no national policy on energy recovery from waste. Public opinion on waste to energy facilities appears to be trapped in the missteps that occurred in the 70’s when first generation incinerator facilities were spewing a toxic soup of pollutants into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately based purely on the number of new facilities approved, built and placed online in the past 10 years, local municipalities and state regulatory agencies may see it the same way. As a country we need access to all viable and environmentally sensitive forms of energy production. The ongoing debates related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and diversified sources of renewable energy all point to one grossly underutilized solution … we need more Energy from Waste facilities.

If people around the world have embraced this technology and made it a vital part of the communities in which they live and work then I suggest we need to review our land-use priorities related to efficient and integrated waste management. I think we can all agree we shouldn’t rely on landfills as our only option here …. Let’s learn more about what the rest of the world already seems to know. For a quick Wikipedia tour of waste-to-energy, click here.

Peter Bellomo is SVP Marketing and Business Development for The Saint Consulting Group, email bellomo@tscg.biz , phone 954 818-8425

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