November 9, 2008

Green Collar Workers for the Renewable Energy Economy

Perhaps the most overlooked issue for all sectors of the renewable energy paradigm is the availability of trained manpower. Maybe it should be the prime issue rather than a secondary one. It certainly will be once new technologies have emerged because widespread implementation and deployment will depend on the availability of a generation of new laborers for work that cannot be off-shored.

A leading advocate for the building this green collar workforce now is Van Jones, a legal scholar and an Oakland, California activist who has just received notification that his new book, The Green Collar Economy, has been listed on the NY Times Bestseller list. Any author would be thrilled but you get the feeling that it means more to him than better market exposure for the book. The book is, afterall, a means to an end. It is the cause that matters and Jones is nothing if not passionate about the cause.

What is the cause? The subtitle of the book is "How One Solution Can Solve Our Two Biggest Problems." The two problems are the fossil based economy and its impact on the economy. The "one solution" proffered by this book is the creation of new, meaningful green collar careers for the underemployed and often unskilled urban and rural workforce in America and other parts of the world.

Clearly, with a new administration headed to Washington (coupled with a clear Democratic majority in both houses) social policymaking and budget allocation is going to change. Add to that the threat of global economic collapse and the question isn't is the government going to address the needs of the middle class - it is how is it going to do it? Surely, this administration will attempt to get more Americans back to work.

Public works programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), not seen since the days of FDR, are already being forecast above the fold in major newspapers. The likely projects will involve not only energy production, but also energy efficiency and transportation infrastructure. That is good because new bioenergy projects in particular will be dependent on increased traffic of heavy vehicles on good roads.

This is what is making Van Jones' book so timely. He addresses the economic justice issue by advocating a new spirit of survival collaboration (Noah and the Ark) in place of counterproductive confrontation (David vs. Goliath). He presents numerous case studies that document different ways that community-based organizations are changing their landscape, employment picture, and can-do self image.

In the back of the book is a list of online resources for learning more and getting involved. Some of my favorites are ACORE, the Apollo Alliance, the Los Angeles Coservation Corps, Andy Lipkis' Tree People, and Majora Carter's inspirational Sustainable South Bronx.

Perhaps the most obvious choice for getting involved is the Green For All website - a sophisticated online resource for engaging stakeholders, advocating policy, and expanding public awareness of the need and potential for "Green Jobs Now!" It too is a means to an end, leveraging the power of the internet to coordinate events as well as defining the scope of the campaign.

What I see missing in the book is a comparable campaign for rural America. The forests, farms, and rangelands of the countryside will provide a host of opportunities for growth of meaningful green collar jobs. Who will run the new equipment, build and operate green power plants and biorefineries for an increasingly decentralized renewable energy paradigm? Unless we stop the leaching of jobs from our depressed rural cooperatives and enterprises, much of the existing infrastructure will need to be refinanced and rebuilt and new manpower trained to deploy regional solutions. These are issues that are part of the agenda of 25x'25 and many national industry associations.

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November 2, 2008

The Greening of American Business

Joel Makower comments on the opportunities and challenges presented by the green economy

For twenty years Joel Makower has been a prolific and insightful communicator about businesses and their role in developing environmentally sustainable practices. He has his own website and Two Steps Forward blog. Many recognize him for his frequent speaking engagements at Clean-tech, business, academic, and investment conferences throughout the country. In short, he is a multi-media "bridge-builder" - as high a compliment as I am accustomed to making.
Joel is co-founder and executive editor of Greener World Media, Inc., which produces and its sister sites,,, and He also serves as a senior strategist at GreenOrder, a sustainability consultancy, as well as co-founder and principal of Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm focusing on building markets for clean energy technologies.

Joel Makower is also the author of more than a dozen books, including his latest titled "Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business" which I found to be a very illuminating snapshot of the operational successes and marketing shortcomings of environmentally conscious American businesses in today's economy. Joel offers a constructive discourse on the way many businesses assess the challenges and address the opportunities of "going green."

To be sure, many business marketing campaigns, in a vain attempt to appear green, are "all hat and no cattle" - calling themselves green for marketing purposes without any substantial impact on their environmental footprint. But Joel is fair in assessing which are making sincere attempts and he cites many examples that help define and illustrate what truly contributing to environmental sustainability is all about.

One of my favorite chapters is titled "You Gotta have CRED" - an acronym for Credibility | Relevance | Effective Messaging | Differentiation. Created by GreenOrder, a business strategy firm that he is affiliated with, CRED is the framework for crafting green strategies and messaging that work. He explains what and how necessary each element is and then simply concludes "Bottom line: You can start anywhere. The important thing is to cover all the bases."

Another chapter with particular relevance to my BIOwaste and BIOstock Blogs is titled "A Tale of Two Circles" which has pie charts I hadn't seen paired before (see my rendition above). It not only shows the total (.2 billion tons per year) and breakdown of municipal solid waste in the U.S. but also shows it to be a minor component of total trash in the country that comes from industrial waste.

In a recent post on his blog, Waste is a Profitable Thing to Mind he summarizes the import of the graphic:
The annual 13 billion tons of Gross National Trash is a costly burden on the environment, not to mention the companies that create these wastes and have to responsibly dispose of them. And it represents a vast untapped business opportunity for Waste Management and the world's other haulers and recyclers to find new ways to create value from these waste streams, or to eliminate them in the first place.

One of the true benefits of the new push for bioenergy would be the development of technologies that can efficiently clean up and tap the energy contained in the organic content of these waste streams.

Another important question that he addresses in the book is "Is green business a fad or a trend?" He then gives ten reasons why he thinks it is an enduring issue for businesses for years to come. Among them are: 1 - The problems aren't getting any better, 2 - The environment has become a fiduciary issue, 3 - Companies are moving beyond "sustainability" and 4 - There's money to be made.

Read the book to learn about these topics and others relevant to issues covered in the BIOenergy BlogRing.

You can hear Joel Makower interviewed for a NewPage OnPaper podcast recorded October 1st at the SustainCommWorld Live after his keynote speech.

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October 20, 2008

California's Renewable Energy Disconnect

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

California is a study of trends and counter-trends.

On one hand we have an "Action" governor who commissions and signs executive orders like the California Bioenergy Action Plan that calls for collaboration between the State government, academia, NGOs, and private industry to tackle our energy deficit problem using bioenergy. The State also has a legislature that courageously drafted and passed its own Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) that sets objectives for reducing carbon emissions in the state to be administered by its California Air Resources Board (CARB).

On the other hand we have a counter-trend that obstructs, as it has for many years, the economically sustainable means to deploy clean technologies that would go a long way toward helping municipalities meet the targets outlined in waste management legislation. In view of the desperate condition of California's budget and the national credit crisis, economic sustainability will not be achievable without private capital and free enterprise.

It is this "disconnect" that threatens the meaningful advancement of technology to solve urban waste management and carbon emission problems.

How is this "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory"? The groups that have successfully championed urban recycling that has played a significant role to reduce landfill growth are some of the most vociferous groups frustrating deployment of the most efficient technologies for converting unrecyclable waste into clean bioenergy fuels and power. Technologies that would, in effect, greatly expand recycling are made to languish as the landfills that are soon to close continue to fill to overflowing.

Perhaps the most articulate voice identifying this dichotomy is Dr. Kay Martin, Vice President of the Bioenergy Producers Association (BPA). The mission of this California lobbying group is to advance the development and commercialization of sustainable, environmentally preferable industries that produce power, fuels, and chemicals from agricultural, forestry, and urban sources of biomass and plastic wastes. Here is a brief bio of the author from the BPA website:
Over the past several years, Dr. Kay Martin has become a leading proponent for the commercialization of conversion technologies and new product markets for biomass fractions of the municipal waste stream, including renewable energy, transportation fuels, industrial chemicals, and a variety of other petroleum replacement products. She is currently a member of the Executive Board of the California Biomass Collaborative and, nationally, sits on the Board of Directors for the New Uses Council and on the Advisory Board of the Biobased Manufacturers Association.

She writes knowledgeably about the disconnect growing between California state objectives (as represented by its Bioenergy Action Plan and Global Warming Solutions Act) and the "decades-old hierarchical framework" that defines, with considerable unscientific bias, what conversion technologies are acceptable and which are not.

With the highly warranted concern for status quo technologies that contribute greatly to ghg and global warming, we are at a time when all promising technologies, especially those with successful track records elsewhere on the planet, should be welcome for demonstration deployment and incentives as long as they meet or exceed emission standards already in place. Otherwise, the status quo remains.

Here are the opening paragraphs of an article Dr. Martin published through MSW Management magazine in its October 2008 issue about this disconnect and the need for a more inclusive technological policy toward permitting and incentives.

California's Renewable Energy Disconnect
by Dr. Kay Martin

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in announcing his executive order to expand biofuels production, stated:
“Turning waste products into energy is good for the state’s economy, local job creation, and our environment. By implementing biomass programs in California, we will help fight critical waste-disposal and environmental problems, including the risk of wildfires, air pollution from open field burning, and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.”

California’s single largest source of biomass is found in the MSW stream. According to a recent state-sponsored biomass-resource assessment, 38 million tons of MSW biomass are generated each year, or 1 dry ton per person. Annually, about 6-8 million tons of these organic materials are utilized to produce compost and mulch, and an additional 1.5 million tons are used to produce power by traditional biomass burn facilities. The remainder, about 70%–75% of the more than 40 million tons disposed annually, represents a tremendous untapped resource for in-state biopower and biofuel production.

Technologies that can safely and efficiently produce alternative energy from biomass-waste feedstocks are now commercially available. Given the state’s vanguard energy initiatives, the runaway cost of petroleum, increased global-warming concerns, and a willing set of new industry partners, one would expect to find a wealth of state incentives for biorefinery development. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Current laws and regulations are, in fact, skewed to prevent this.

The root problem is a chronic disconnect between California’s energy and waste-management policies. New state bioenergy initiatives call for the creation of a favorable legal, regulatory, and economic environment to stimulate industry investments in technologies that utilize biomass for green power and green fuel production. Waste-management policy, in contrast, is mired in a decades-old hierarchical framework that artificially limits bioindustry access to these same resources. It does so by favoring certain landfill-diversion technologies and products over others through the maintenance of statutory barriers and the granting or withholding of incentives.

To read the entire article, please click for MORE.

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August 16, 2008

California "discriminates" against thermochemical CTs

Aligned with the goals of the California Bioenergy Action Plan there is a new amendment to a California Senate Bill (SB 1252) that seeks to expand the range of technologies that are sanctioned for the conversion of green and municipal waste into biofuels. It would, for instance, "greenlight" projects like the new BlueFire Ethanol demonstration facility being built in Lancaster, CA.

Coming AFTER the recently awarded conditional use permit for BlueFire Energy by the Los Angeles Public Utilities Commission the amendment to SB 1252 appears to be a begrudging acknowledgement that public support for innovative technologies that convert waste into biofuels is on the rise. Better jump on the public opinion train before it leaves the station.

Unfortunately, the wording in the amendment is highly selective in defining what kind of conversion technologies are now acceptable. Simply put, cold technologies are now in but hot technologies are still out. This is nothing unique, according to Dr. Kay Martin, one of most respected advocates for California waste management reform and a member of the Bioenergy Producers Association (BPA):
Aside from this bill, the same kind of discriminatory embargo of "high-temperature" technologies appears in two other bills, AB 2640 (Huffman) and AB 2866 (DeLeon), each of which exclude these technologies from state grant funding eligibility. The BPA drafted "oppose unless amended" letters to the authors of these bills as well (see SB 1252 response below).

The bottom line is that there is an unavoidable recognition that significant new landfill diversion in CA requires new tools--but there is also a pervasive bias for composting, and an enduring blockade of any proposals that facilitate development of thermal processes that utilize MSW feedstock.

Apparently, the California legislature will have to be shamed by other states into accepting thermochemical remedies before it will permit deployment here. Besides killing investment initiative, it appears to be a blatant attempt to curb municipal interest in these technologies. Courageously, Los Angeles utilities who are looking into the barrel of its landfill crisis are moving ahead with their evaluation and likely deployment of thermochemical solutions without the State legislature's "blessing."

The California legislature, like its Ninth Circuit Court, are playing politics with issues that are technological in substance. This is becoming increasingly true as concern about energy, the environment, and global warming "heat up." Ironically, it is the "progressive" aisle that is being used to stop innovation while the conservatives want to spur development in new conversion technologies.

In view of the urgency of the drivers of change (national security, oil dependence, greenhouse gas emissions, balance of trade, fuel carbon content, revamping the energy infrastructure, etc.) it seems to be a poor time for the legislature to be exclusionary of a range of thermochemical conversion technologies that are already being used in Europe and Asia - not to mention advocated and incentivized for development funding by the U.S. Congress and Department of Energy.

In February, I attended the annual Renewable Fuels Association conference in Orlando Florida. One of the keynote speeches was given by Peter Hart of Hart Research Associates - a national polling firm. He reported that a recent poll his company ran asked the question:
In which approach should we invest the most resources and efforts to address our energy problems?

The response in favor of advancing new technologies was overwhelming.
• 51% said we should "Invent our way out of the problem: develop renewable sources."
• 28% responded "Conserve our way out of the problem: energy efficiency, conservation policies/programs."
• 17% said "Drill/mine our way out of the problem: find domestic fossil fuel sources."

Not surprisingly, most Americans believe that technological innovation is the best way to go - for developing renewable sources and energy efficiency. That should be especially true in California where many of the significant paradigm shifts of the last century have been successfully germinated, researched, nurtured, funded, marketed, and deployed. For the Senate to play politics with technological innovation is distinctly unAmerican and, I would submit, un-Californian.

In light of the profound stimulus for biofuels development contained in the 2007 U.S. Energy Bill (aka, EISA), now is the time to pull all the stops restricting innovation that provides solution to our energy, environment, and global warming challenges. This amendment should greenlight thermochemical solutions to waste management in addition to the cold ones currently mentioned.

For the California Air Resources Board to draft a Climate Change Scoping Plan that targets waste management but excludes thermochemical conversion technologies from being an "arrow in the quiver" is short-sighted and political non-science.

Below is a letter sent to the authors of the amendment by the BioEnergy Producers Association that succinctly states their concern about the anti-thermochemical technology bias contained in the bill. Will the California legislature drive the train or continue to wait in the station as other states take advantage of our profligate waste of initiative?

An open letter from the Bioenergy Producers Association

To: Senator Don Perata
California State Senate

RE: SB 1252 - OPPOSE

The BioEnergy Producers Association is an alliance of companies dedicated to the environmentally sensitive manufacture of advanced biofuels, chemicals and green power from agricultural, forestry and urban biomass and plastic wastes. Among others, our membership includes electric utilities, waste haulers, biobased technology providers, engineering and consulting firms from all areas of the state.

The technologies we advocate, which include thermochemical/biochemical processes, represent California’s best hope for creating alternatives to its escalating costs of motor fuel and electricity, and its dependence on foreign petroleum. These new technologies could potentially produce 2.7 billion gallons of advanced biofuels and 2,500 MW of power from the 42 million tons of post-recycled municipal solid waste that are being placed in California’s landfills each year.

As more than 100 of these projects are now operating in Europe and Asia, and the Department of Energy is investing millions of dollars through grants and loan guarantees to introduce these technologies commercially in the United States, it is mystifying why the California legislature has so consistently, and for so long, refused to take action to encourage investment in, and expedite the implementation of, these technologies in this state. Indeed, it has established a pattern of direct economic and legislative discrimination against these technologies.

The latest example is SB 1252, of which you have just become a co-author. Here is why:

1. The definition for "lignocellulosic ethanol processing," as incorporated in SB 1252, is inaccurate, in that it is specifically limited to, and reserved for, the sugar platform via acid or enzymatic hydrolysis. The definition fails to recognize that ethanol can also be efficiently and economically produced from cellulosic materials through the biological fermentation of syngas in an engineered and controlled environment. The recognition of multiple technologies and pathways for ethanol production is consistent with the Bioenergy Action Plan and central to the objectives of AB 118 and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

2. The bill is discriminatory on its face by favoring one production pathway (the sugar platform) and technology (hydrolysis/fermentation) over all others. The granting of reduced permitting standards (transfer/processing station) and diversion credit to a single class of companies while denying these benefits to others is directly contrary to existing State policy for bioenergy development and in-state production of alternative fuels.

3. By limiting its definition of “lignocellulosic ethanol processing” to acid and enzymatic technologies [Section 40149 (a)], the proposed bill enables such technologies to be permitted as transfer or processing stations, while continuing to require the permitting of thermochemcial technologies as major solid waste landfillls. The difference in both time required and the cost of complying with the permitting process creates a market advantage for acid and enzymatic processes that is contrary to the principal of equal competition under law, and will provide “lignocellulosic” technologies, as defined in your bill, with a significant lead time to market.

4. By allowing waste streams that are consumed by acid and enzymatic technologies to qualify for a diversion credit, and by excluding thermochemical technologies from this provision, it denies municipalities of any incentive to make their waste streams available for processing by companies that are investing in clean thermochemical technologies. This wholly discriminatory action by the legislature denies these innovative technologies a level playing field and places them at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

This year, despite achieving a recycling rate of 54% (14% of which, by the way, is comprised of green wastes that are being placed in landfills for use as alternate daily cover), 42 million tons of post-recycled waste will be sent to the state’s landfills, more than was being landfilled in 1989, the year AB 939 was passed. As the state’s population is expected to grow by some 10 million people over the next 25 years, this trend cannot help but continue.

We submit that it will be impossible for the state to achieve the levels of landfill diversion mandated in SB 1252 without the application of all available technologies for waste conversion. Unfortunately, the hostile climate for thermochemical technologies being fostered by the state legislature is forcing the proponents of these technologies to construct their plants in other states, and along with them are going millions of dollars of Department of Energy grants and loan guarantees.

The victims of these policies, and bills like SB 1252, will be the people of California, who will be denied an efficient path to low-cost, locally-produced alternatives to gasoline and a cleaner environment.

The BioEnergy Producers Association strongly opposes the provisions of SB 1252 and the manner in which they are being inserted into this bill without adequate public discussion at the end of the 2008 session.


James L. Stewart,
Chairman of the Board

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July 29, 2008

Bioenergy Producers comment on California's Climate Change Scoping Plan

California Senator David Roberti (ret.) is a public servant of the first magnitude for California. I have met Sen. Roberti several times and hold him in highest esteem for his intelligence, his leadership, his respect for the lawmaking process, and socially sensitive policymaking. During his 28 years of service in the California legislature and 13 years of service as President Pro Tem of the California State Senate he provided superior understanding of the nature and process of governmental actions.

Relevant to California recycling and waste management law, he is also intimately familiar with issues that permeate the waste, recycling, and hazardous waste industry. David was chief Senate negotiator of AB 939, California’s landmark waste management legislation, and the author of California’s Hazardous Waste Management Act of 1986, the Hazardous Waste Reduction Act of 1989, as well as legislation establishing the California Hazardous Waste Hotline. After retiring from the Senate he was a member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board for four years. He is an innovator and friend of recycling who seeks to expand it in a clean and sustainable way.

Besides his law practice Roberti is also President of the Bioenergy Producers Association.
The mission of the BioEnergy Producers Association (BPA) is to advance the development and commercialization of sustainable, environmentally preferable industries that produce power, fuels, and chemicals from agricultural, forestry, and urban sources of biomass and plastic wastes.

Founders of this organization include some of the top waste management experts in California as well as two of the cellulosic ethanol technology pioneers - BlueFire Ethanol and New Planet Energy.

With such an experienced brain, law, and business trust at its disposal, the California Air Resources Board should take special note of the following comments submitted by Sen. Roberti on behalf of the BPA concerning the "Recycling and Waste Management" section of their California Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan.

(June 2008 Discussion Draft)

The BioEnergy Producers Association (BPA) is a coalition of private companies and public agencies dedicated to the development and commercialization of environmentally preferable industries that produce renewable sources of power, fuels, and chemicals from agricultural, forestry and urban biomass wastes and other carbonaceous materials. Our membership includes bioenergy firms, electric utilities, and waste management companies.

The BPA has reviewed the “Recycling and Waste” section of the Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan, and requests CARB’s consideration of additional measures for Landfill Methane Control. Landfill Methane can be controlled by disposing of carbon-based materials that would otherwise be landfilled in the process of producing liquid and electric energy using clean thermochemcial conversion technologies.

Specifically, the Recycling and Waste Sector Preliminary Recommendation should mirror and complement strategies outlined for the agricultural sector by encouraging the use of urban biomass wastes for sustainable energy production. Deployment of bioenergy strategies is consistent with the Bioenergy Action Plan, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and AB 32 GHG reduction goals for the following reasons:

Landfill Abatement Potential

The Draft Scoping Plan recognizes fugitive landfill methane gas emissions as a major GHG precursor, and calls for measures to reduce the volume of materials flowing to land disposal. Existing source reduction, recycling, and composting programs are credited with attainment of the state’s 54% diversion rate, and the Plan places principal reliance upon the expansion of these programs to reduce disposal tonnages in the future, virtually ignoring the potential to use these waste resources in the clean production of liquid and electric energy.

Despite the success of its recycling and composting efforts, California’s high disposal rate has remained virtually unchanged for the past 20 years. 40 million tons of municipal waste were landfilled in California in 1989, the year AB 939 was passed. This year, despite the progress of recycling, 42 million tons of waste will be placed in the state’s landfills. As the state’s population is expected to grow by some 10 million people over the next 25 years, this trend is expected to continue.

It is folly to adopt the position that the volume of material that is being placed in California’s landfills can be significantly reduced through source reduction, traditional means of recycling and composting alone. All methods of disposal must be incorporated in any effective plan, and this includes the complete disposal (i.e., destruction) of carbon-based wastes in the process of producing the liquid and electric energy so desperately needed by the state.

Approximately 70% of the residual materials placed in landfills consist of various types of biomass, only a portion of which may be feasibly composted or recycled. In short, new tools are needed. For example, compostable organics (i.e. food and vegetative wastes), comprise only about 25% of this stream. Similarly, there is no estimate of additional biomass materials, such as paper, which may be recovered through intensified commercial recycling efforts, although markets for the major portion of this stream may have already been optimized, with residuals having limited commodity market value.

In contrast, new biomass conversion technologies, such as in-vessel hydrolysis/fermentation and thermal/fermentation processes, have the potential to convert the full spectrum of landfill-bound carbonaceous waste materials into renewable energy products, including power, fuels, and chemicals. Because of their unprecedented potential to divert waste materials to beneficial use, the development of clean technology bioenergy facilities is an essential and necessary component of future landfill abatement strategies.

GHG Reduction Potential

The Draft Scoping Plan notes that commercial recycling and composting programs “could have substantial greenhouse gas benefits but their in-state reductions have not been quantified at this time.” Indeed, data on the effectiveness of current waste management practices as climate change strategies are both inconclusive and incomplete.

Composting operations, for example, have their own set of air quality concerns, including VOCs and GHG precursors. In fact, an independent study recently completed by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts1 concluded that placement of urban green waste in landfills as alternative daily cover was superior to composting these materials in terms of net GHG emissions.

The climate change benefits of recycling are generally assumed to derive from the avoidance of virgin material extraction and reintroduction of recovered materials with “intrinsic energy value” back into the remanufacturing process, although the Draft Scoping Plan admits that such benefits may not occur in California. Indeed, the majority of California’s recyclables leave the state for distant domestic or foreign markets, with the largest volume of these commodities, namely paper and plastics, being shipped to China.

The life cycle analyses on which recycling climate change benefits are based seldom calculate the global GHG impacts of trans-Pacific shipping, or of transferring the remanufacturing burden to developing nations where environmental controls are minimal or nonexistent. These atmospheric industrial pollutants drift eastward and find their way back to California in a matter of days, contributing further to the state’s GHG reduction challenge.

The CIWMB’s own studies point out the critical need to both reevaluate and expand the range of technologies employed to meet future landfill abatement and climate change objectives. For example, a comprehensive life cycle analysis of waste management practices completed in 2004 by the Research Triangle Institute2 concluded that new waste conversion technologies (acid hydrolysis, gasification, and catalytic cracking) were superior to recycling and composting with regard to energy balance, NOx emissions, and carbon emissions. Similarly, a 2006 study of thermal waste conversion technologies prepared for the CIWMB by UC Riverside3 stated:
“If conversion technologies were able to process a significant portion of California’s waste that is currently landfilled, benefits could be realized in a number of areas. These include reductions in overall greenhouse gas emissions, fugitive landfill gas emissions, and diesel truck emissions. On the energy production side, the avoided costs and impacts in exploration, production, and transportation of traditional fuels could be substantial.”

This same study concluded:
“Thermochemical technologies can process a wider variety of feedstocks and can have a greater effect on landfill reduction. Thermochemical technologies can also produce a larger variety of products, which can displace the need for non-renewable sources of energy and fuels. Other indirect effects include eliminating diesel truck trips and reducing landfill gas emissions.”

Thermochemical conversion technologies are clean technologies because nothing enters the atmosphere as a result of the gasification (waste disposal) step. The resulting synthesis gases and waste heat from the processes can be converted to liquid and electric energy. The opposition to conversion technologies that is influencing legislative and administrative policy in California stems from those who refuse to accept that 21st century technology can achieve environmentally superior waste-to-energy technologies; from the traditional recycling industry which wants to suppress competition for the state’s waste streams and from waste management firms that view conversion technologies as threats to landfills.

It is time for the state to look past these short-sighted positions and embrace these emerging technologies with the same commitment as the federal government, other states and nations. More than 100 of these plants are now operating or will be constructed in Europe and Asia during the next decade.

California should be a leader in encouraging such technologies.
However, private enterprise will continue to take these projects elsewhere until the state adopts a practical, efficient and supportive statutory and regulatory environment for their implementation and operation.


The BioEnergy Producers Association supports the expansion of California’s source reduction, recycling, and composting programs. At the same time, we urge that new clean-technology bioenergy strategies be applied to the state’s growing post-recycled waste stream in order to meet urgent landfill abatement and climate change goals. Timely deployment of waste-based biorefineries can provide a vehicle for integrating California’s renewable energy, AB 118, and AB32 policy objectives.

1 Evaluation of Green Waste Management Impacts on GHG Emissions, Alternative Daily Cover Compared with Composting. Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, April 2008.
2 Life Cycle and Market Impact Assessment of Noncombustion Waste Conversion Technologies. Prepared for the CIWMB by the Research Triangle Institute International, 2004.
3 Evaluation of Environmental Impacts of Thermochemical Conversion Technologies Using Municipal Solid Waste Feedstocks. Prepared for the CIWMB by the University of California , Riverside, April 2006.

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July 2, 2008

CA Draft Scoping Plan comment:
Recycling and Waste

This is one of a series of comments submitted to the California Air Resources Board for their draft version of the California Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan. Other BIOenergy BlogRing comments are linked here:
Challenge the Status Quo
Recycling and Waste
Sustainable Forests


The Draft Scoping Plan correctly identifies recycling and waste management as a focus area for mitigation of greenhouse gases. According to CARB's own estimates, there are 40 million tons of unrecycled waste pouring into California's landfills each year. This is roughly equal to the amount that was accumulating before California's very successful recycling policies were enacted twenty years ago.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) needs to pursue a more aggressive approach than merely extending methane capture and composting solutions. California's waste management companies already lead the nation in their efficiency for capturing methane from landfills. The closure of landfills, not methane capture, is the urgent problem that requires attention.

Composting is not a solution for two reasons: 1) the resulting compost does not meet a consistent purity standard to make it marketable and 2) the demand for compost is so low that these programs are not economically sustainable.

Environmental sustainability will only come with economic sustainability. For this reason Zero waste as currently defined by some recycling groups is an unattainable idealistic vision for which the costs will grow geometrically as it approaches zero percent. The biggest reduction in the rate of landfilling will come if clean conversion technologies, which are economically sustainable, are developed as an extension of recycling.

Most unrecyclable trash can be used for generating renewable electricity or converting into carbon-neutral biofuels. Some of our biggest landfills in our largest cities are scheduled to close within the next decade necessitating trans-shipment to other sites - sometimes hundreds of miles away. This is a waste of GHG emitting trucking and rail energy (see independent 2005 UC/Riverside analysis). Instead, conversion technologies sited at waste sorting facilities, a plan already under development in Los Angeles, can cleanly reduce the volume going to landfills by approximately 85%.

Without question, municipalities should receive diversion credit for redirecting unrecycleable biomass from landfills to conversion technologies that can cleanly produce bioenergy and bioproducts from the refuse.

I personally believe there should be a recycling integrity clause in the Scoping Plan that insures that all recycled waste is turned into products within California to reduce and control global GHG emissions. That is the only way that the hard choices about waste stream recycling, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic sustainability can be honestly addressed. Currently most recyclables are shipped to China (at great GHG expense) because of that country's poor wages, lack of workers rights, and appallingly low pollution standards.

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