Is "Incinerator Pollution Power" "Green?"
Action needed to prevent Philpower, Fibrowatt, and
Port Penn, DE. February 23, 2000. Electricity deregulation and "green" power. Sale of electricity is being "deregulated" in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and many other states. People will have a choice about who to buy power from, just as they can now decide for themselves about long distance phone service. (Like long distance, the electricity will come over the same wires, but its origin may be different.) Some vendors will offer "green" electricity, usually at extra cost. (A related tactic will to use "environmental groups" to market power in return for a tiny slice of the money, much as National Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club promote MBNA credit cards. Howard Cosgrove, CEO of Conectiv, Delaware's dominant utility, says he plans to do this.) For example, In PA, Conectiv sells "Natures Power 100" @ 7 cents/kWh, and "Natures Power 50" @ 6 cents/kWh, as opposed to regular system power (mostly coal) @ 5 cents/kWh. Apparently "Natures Power" comes from landfill gas burning, although Conectiv has provided conflicting information. This sort of marketing can be expected in Delaware within a few months.
What is "green" or "renewable" electricity?
The cleanest solution is "negawatts:" conservation and efficiency programs to reduce the need for generating power at all. (Delaware's negawatt programs were shut down after Gov. Tom Carper and the General Assembly handed the Delaware Public Service Commission over the utilities it is supposed to regulate.) Wind and solar power are generally accepted as "green." Coal and nuclear are generally rejected. Opinion is divided on hydro power (from falling water) and "biomass." "Biomass," or "biopower," usually means some form of burning, or incineration, of wood, garbage ("municipal waste"), "construction and demolition debris," (C & D) "landfill gas," animal poop, sewage sludge, crop residues, and other materials. Burning biomass can produce small amounts of electricity but also produces air pollution just like burning other fuels. For example, the proposed Philpower incinerator in Delaware would produce about one percent of Delaware's electricity needs, while putting out up to ten thousand pounds per day of air pollutants. To put it another way, 100 Philpowers, each with it's own belching 20 story smokestack, would be needed to supply Delaware. Incinerator promoters like Philpower (a Delaware and perhaps Maryland C & D incinerator proposal) and Fibrowatt (A British Co. looking for Govt. subsidies to build a chicken poop incinerator in Delaware or Maryland.) are working hard to label themselves "green."
Green-e or Brown-e?
The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) in San Francisco has set up a "Green-e" brand name for "green" electricity (http://www.green-e.org/), and intends to make decisions on what electricity sources qualify as "Green-e" in our region. CRS likes "biomass," and it's Green Power has even ruled that garbage incineration--a very toxic industry--is "Green-e" in California. CRS meetings are packed with incinerator people and other views are often ignored. A Mid-Atlantic CRS committee recently voted to consider "agricultural wastes," and "clean" C & D waste burnings as "green." (Green Delaware participated to some extent on this committee but our views were ignored.) These decisions endorse Philpower and Fibrowatt.
What to do?
We need progress towards cleaner sources of electricity. (Conectiv, Delaware's dominant utility, dumps about 110 million pounds per year of health threatening pollutants into Delaware's air, and is responsible for about 60 percent of the "toxics release inventory" of some of our most dangerous pollutants.)
But, It would be absurd for people to buy "green" electricity at extra cost, thinking they were helping promote wind and solar power, but actually be subsidizing incinerators polluting their communities. If Green-e supports incineration, the people must reject Green-e.
We also think it's essential that impacts of generating plants on local communities be considered in deciding what is "green." Can something be green for the planet if it's brown for its neighbors? Delaware needs to establish a "portfolio standard," requiring an increasing proportion of our electricity to come from "negawatts" and truly green sources. This will not be easy considering the near total control of utilities and other polluters over energy policies. For example, New Jersey has established a "Renewables Portfolio Standard," but, absurdly, it includes garbage incineration. Excess chicken poop is a problem on the Delmarva Peninsula, but we see little reason to support incineration as a reasonable or cost effective solution. Green Delaware has studied the permits of existing Fibrowatt chicken poop burners and they put out plenty of pollution. Even Mr. Fraser, the head of Fibrowatt, has admitted that composting is better. (For another take on the Green-e problem, see http://www.green-energy.org from our good friends in the Pennsylvania Environmental Network.)
Truth in Advertising: Green Delaware will ask the Delaware General Assembly to act to prevent incinerator power from being sold as Green in Delaware.
Below is a sign-on letter. We are seeking the endorsement of environmental, civic, and other organizations. Please send us your approval, along with contact information. Please also email it to the Green Power Board & etc.: (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
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To the Green Power Board and others whom it may concern:
We the undersigned object to labeling any form of incineration as a "green" or "renewable" source of electricity. Incineration means the burning of waste such as garbage (municipal waste), construction and demolition debris, animal excrement, industrial waste, and others. Decisions on "green" sources should also involve consideration of local impacts on "host communities." This should include the impacts of road and rail traffic, harvesting operations, transfer stations, ash disposal, and other related activities. A facility cannot be green for the planet if it's brown for its neighbors. (Some of us object to considering any biomass combustion as "green.") We will not support the Green-e brand for electricity, or welcome it in our state, it if includes incineration.
Signed: Name__________________ Title________________________
Look for more details in upcoming Green Delaware News. (C) Alan Muller
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This page was last updated on March 5, 2000.