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Environmentalists: Burning Trash is Not Clean Energy

PHOTO: Environmentalists say burning industrial waste such as petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil refining process, should not be allowed to qualify for the state's "clean" energy credits. Photo credit: kconnors/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Environmentalists say burning industrial waste such as petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil refining process, should not be allowed to qualify for the state's "clean" energy credits. Photo credit: kconnors/morguefile.com.
June 13, 2014

LANSING, Mich. – Garbage in, garbage out. That's what environmental advocates assert about a proposal that would allow the burning of more industrial and municipal waste to count toward Michigan's renewable-energy goals.

Jack Schmitt, deputy director, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, thinks House Bill 5205 flies in the face of the state's efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources.

"It would create the possibility for increased dangerous air pollution, which we know causes asthma and heart and lung disease; would allow some of those really dirty sources like petroleum coke to be burned and called 'renewable energy,'" says Schmitt.

State Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Dist. 66) who introduced the bill, says incinerating waste would be more productive than dumping it in landfills. However, environmentalists argue that increasing efforts to recycle and reuse waste makes more sense than offering incentives in the form of renewable-energy credits for burning it.

Schmitt points out that the state has enjoyed success on several fronts since passing renewable-energy legislation in 2008, and he sees no reason to derail that progress.

"It's led to economic growth, $2.2 billion in economic investment," Schmitt says. "We're on track to meet those goals that were laid out – 10 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2015 – a bipartisan bill when it was put in place, and I think it's been broadly acknowledged to be a success."

Under current state law, most incinerators are not considered renewable energy systems unless they meet certain specifications. Michigan defines a renewable energy resource as energy derived from solar, water, or wind power, and that is naturally replenished over a human time frame.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI