Still Hope For New Municipal Waste Combustors in Massachusetts?

Yesterday’s New York Times had a very interesting article regarding the use of advanced municipal waste combustor technology in Europe. As the article notes, such plants are relatively commonplace in Europe, whereas literally no new waste-to-energy plants are being built in the United States. Ian Bowles, our own Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs – and someone who has generally been a very successful promoter of renewable energy technology – acknowledged that “Europe has gotten out ahead with this newest technology.” 

This shouldn’t be surprising given that states such as Massachusetts have moratoria on new municipal waste combustors. It’s difficult to keep up with Europe when you order people not to try. In fairness to Secretary Bowles, the article pretty much makes clear why it is that Massachusetts has a moratorium in place and why we’ve fallen behind Europe. Laura Haight, at New York PIRG said that

Incinerators really are the devil.

Glad that there’s no rhetorical excess at NY PIRG. In any case, it’s difficult for regulators to move forward when one of their prime constituencies thinks that the technology is the devil.

Is it possible that the U.S. environmental community is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good on this issue? NY PIRG wants to get to a “zero waste” economy. I think we’ll get to a zero carbon economy before we get to a zero waste economy.

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