Friday, December 9, 2011

Waste Conversion Congress on the West Coast: What We’ve Learned

Back on the East Coast, we’ve had some time to digest all the information we received at the Waste Conversion Congress and reflect on some of the thought-provoking debates and conversations we were a part of. Here’s what has been on our minds as a result of the conference:

Ø   The amount of waste we deposit in landfills is absolutely staggering.  The energy    value we bury is equivalent to the amount of energy 31 million cars consume annually.
Ø   The general population has been taught to think of incineration when they hear the term “waste-to-energy.” Incineration conjures up images of massive power plants spewing pollution into the air and is an incorrect visual for the latter term.
Ø   Regulation of these projects and technologies is politically based when it should be scientifically based. California is the toughest state to permit, even when experts agree on the net positive environmental benefit of a project.
Ø   Financing is difficult given the current economic climate and many of the tax incentives that are set to expire at the end of the calendar year are not likely to be renewed. There are other ways to get financed, but developers need to be doing more research earlier on to determine how the project will be funded. The fewer projects that get scrapped midway, the better it is for our industry.
Ø   Facing a passionate, schooled and well-politicized opposition, it’s important that these initial projects are successful to avoid making projects down the pike more difficult. At Better BTU, we do our best to present both sides of an issue so we will be spending some time in later entries dissecting their arguments. Afterall, the best way to strengthen your product is to examine the areas receiving criticism.
Ø   The sheer number of projects using a variety of technologies and processes is encouraging. Although most will fail, the few that make it into production will create the inflection point for our industry.
Just because the conference is over doesn’t mean this blog is! Stay tuned as we continue to bring you a deeper look at some of the people, places and philosophies discussed at the Waste Conversion Congress on the West Coast.

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