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Environmental Balance:
Energy Factors

by John W. Norton, P.E., B.C.E.E.

Energy is the neglected component today when evaluating various environmental options. Usually, tighter emission controls mean more energy required. Energy is a fairly limited resource whose depletion has serious effects on many things, not the least of which is the environment.

Example of Energy Waste:

Modern Incineration of American Municipal Waste cleanly releases energy.

Trucking uses energy.

Burying waste uses energy.

None-the-less, in America we have essentially ruled out the use of incineration to manage our solid waste stream by extremely tight emissions regulation; far more stringent than that required of coal burning power plants.

The default choice for most American Waste is landfilling (85% of all American Municipal Waste is landfilled) which requires both trucking and burying; both are intensive uses of energy. Not only do we lose the energy from the waste itself, we use energy to truck and bury it.

In addition to wasting this combustion energy, we are increasing pollution by using the energy required to truck and bury the waste. The emissions from the trucking and burying are far worse for human health than the minor emissions from a modern incinerator.

The author's intent is offering the best environmental balance advice available; the user is free to use it, although no guarantee can be implied. All user circumstances are unique and require individual analysis.

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