Capitol Hill policy forum highlights economic, environmental benefits of energy recovery

ACC’s recent policy forum on Capitol Hill (watch here) hit full capacity with more than 100 guests in attendance to hear Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and a panel of leading experts on energy recovery talk about the importance and potential of this growing field. ACC’s President and CEO Cal Dooley opened the forum – the latest event in ACC’s “From Chemistry to Energy” campaign – by underscoring the need to develop a comprehensive “all of the above” national energy strategy that includes energy recovery.

Mr. Dooley emphasized how recent innovations in energy recovery and various waste-to-energy technologies could make a significant contribution to a comprehensive energy policy. Mr. Dooley summed up the opportunities for greater utilization of energy recovery as follows:

Government has a role to play to ensure policies will help unlock the vast energy potential of non-recycled plastics and other materials that are currently being buried in landfills. We hope today’s forum will introduce some of the key issues and begin a conversation. Policymakers need to recognize the benefits of recovering energy from waste: It’s a source of secure, domestic energy. It diverts waste from and reduces reliance on landfills. It complements mechanical recycling programs, reduces the carbon footprint of waste management, and provides flexibility.

Senator Ron Wyden echoed Mr. Dooley’s emphasis on the need for greater utilization of energy recovery technologies. Senator Wyden commented on Oregon’s efforts to rethink the local landfill:

We thought seriously about waste and started the drive to recognize the power of our landfills…natural gas gives America a strategic advantage. However, America is seeing that we should be looking for other opportunities as well…we have a choice, send our stuff to landfill or develop a bonanza for energy and our economy.

Congressman Bill Cassidy’s enthusiasm was clear:

Energy recovery creates jobs, so I think we need to start thinking about our energy strategy differently and ignite the vision of our potential energy.

Following the congressional keynote speakers, the forum featured a panel of some of the world’s foremost experts in energy recovery, including business leaders and academics, who focused on the economic and environmental benefits of energy recovery. I’ll write about some of their ideas in a forthcoming blog.

All of our keynote speakers agreed that the energy potential of municipal solid waste is significant and critical to America’s long-term energy future.

To pave the way, we need policy makers to support efforts to broaden definitions of “renewable energy” and “clean energy” that include energy derived from all types of non-recycled municipal solid waste. We need energy sourced from non-recycled plastics and other wastes to be included in government renewable energy portfolios. We need states to simplify the permitting process for energy recovery facilities, and for energy recovery to count toward fulfillment of state-mandated recycling and diversion goals. And finally, we need existing policies to define non-recycled plastics and other valuable sources of energy as “fuel” rather than “waste.”

As Representative Cassidy pointed out, “953 megawatts of energy is created in Alexandria alone from energy recovery.” Just imagine the economic and positive environmental impact if more cities adopted this strategy.

Click here to learn more about ACC’s Energy recovery Policy Forum.

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