Monday, May 09, 2005


Sort of, anyway. A few excerpts:

With landfill sites becoming increasingly expensive, and of course banned in Europe, there is a push towards alternative methods of waste disposal. Global Renewals, a private company, is on the cusp of waste management technology. In yet another stellar display of globalization, the company has licensed Italian and German technology to build a revolutionary waste management and recycling plant in Australia. Located in Sydney, the UR-3R facility, as it is known, promises to divert around 80 percent of waste from landfills, recover recyclable materials from the waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, produce compost and fertiliser products, and even become a source of green electricity. Your trash has now become a valuable resource.

The new technology is based on mining industry separation processes. Like the material dug up by miners, household waste contains all kinds of junk - ranging from rotting vegetable matter and foodstuffs to more valuable metal, plastic, glass, and paper. The UR-3R facility will divert waste away from the landfill by separating out these valuable products and converting the organic component of the waste into compost and fertiliser products.

Garbage trucks bring waste straight to the plant where huge magnets pick up ferrous metal and a conveyor system quickly sorts the inorganic material from the organic. The organic material - the stinky stuff - is fed into massive percolators and sprayed with water that absorbs the easily soluble material such as sugars. This sugar-rich water is then put into anaerobic digesters with bacteria that consume the organic material. In the process of consuming this organic material, a methane-rich biogas is produced. The gas is able to produce enough electricity to run the plant with enough left over to export about 10 percent back into the grid. (Learn how bio-waste can be used to generate electricity, an article on aBE by John Schrock.)

From each 100 ton of waste, the separation process will produce 3.2 tons of metals, one tonne of film plastics (largely plastic bags), 2.6 tons of glass, 7.2 tonnes of paper, and 5.8 tonnes of mixed plastics, which can then be sold on the market. The 60 or so remaining tonnes of solid organic material are put through a 16-week composting process, producing a compost product for commercial sale.

The plant is also water self-sufficient; it turns out your trash is about 50 percent water. When the waste is put in percolators, the cell structure breaks down and water is released. Excess water is used in the compost-building.

The plant will also reduce the social impacts of waste collection and disposal. By dealing with waste locally and in an enclosed facility, noise, dust and odour are reduced. Furthermore, waste is not transported over long distances - reducing transportation and other external costs.....

Despite, or perhaps because of, its benefits the UR-3R recycling plant is still not as cheap as landfill. In the short-term it will cost consumers an extra $10 a year in garbage collection fees levied by local government. However, the cost of landfills goes up every year and within five or six years, it is estimated that this type of facility will be cheaper than landfill in most parts of the developed world. Besides, the small additional cost in the short-term is more than offset by the sites' environmental benefits.

More here


While the raw materials are free, wind-powered energy generation is relatively inefficient, as variable wind speeds mean that most turbines operate at only about one-third capacity. Obviously, if the wind doesn’t blow no power is generated. Furthermore, wind-generated power is expensive. As a result, the wind business relies heavily on subsidies, at times necessitating as much as three-quarters of the total cost for a new development. And there are environmental detriments: dead birds, dotted natural landscapes, and opportunity costs associated with the subsidies.

The Wind Energy Association, a well resourced and highly organized lobbying group for wind energy producers, maintains regional associations throughout the world - Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Europe, and India. Needless to say, they don’t take allegations of inefficiency and dependence on subsidies lying down. They counter that wind energy is just one of several energy technologies that garner public subsidies (like hydro, solar and biomass). WEA also contends that wind turbine costs are falling.

Various other complaints have arisen against the turbines. Some critics believe wind energy-production is: noisy, harmful to birds, depreciates land value, diminishes environmental aesthetics (i.e. they are ugly) and detracts from tourism. The WEAs counter: “Wind turbines produce a predominantly ‘whooshing’ sound” and “A conversation can be carried out at the base of a modern operating turbine without raising one’s voice.” Furthermore, “Any tall structure presents a risk to birds” it is “estimated that 100 million bird deaths a year can be attributed to domestic cats,” and “There is no evidence that wind farms negatively impact tourism,” “wind turbines cause very little permanent damage, occupying less than 2% of the land area within a given wind farm boundary. They can be dismantled after 20-25 years and the land returned to virtually its former state,” and finally, “There is no evidence that wind farms negatively impact tourism.”

Ultimately, though, these are peripheral issues. If wind-power doesn’t work, or proves too inefficient, then the debate over how much noise turbines make or how they look seems irrelevant. Professor James Lovelock, a leading environmental scientist, believes, “At the best, wind power cannot provide more than a tiny fraction of the energy needs of civilization. It’s a nice idea. It looks good. It’s showy. I think it's one of those things politicians like because it can be seen that they're doing something. But in practice, it's not really a useful remedy.”

Lovelock’s attitude is contrary to what the wind-energy lobby’s message. They often cite Denmark as a nation that now derives 20% of its energy needs from wind power. Lobbyists are reluctant to mention, however, the extent to which the Danish government props up the industry through tax incentives and subsidies. For example, in 2001 the previous Danish government, led by the Social Democratic Party, provided substantial subsidies to the Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm Cooperative, the first large project placing wind turbines off shore.

The Danes are free to do what they choose. But if they are investing in wind farms in order to gain an economic return, as opposed to philosophic, they are likely to be disappointed. Despite lobbyists’ claims, wind farms are expensive and inefficient. Most conservative estimates place the cost of wind power at double that of other forms of energy. And while the Danes may be content to see public monies used to prop up unviable industries, most nations are not. Many renewable energy technologies receive subsidies, which encourage malinvestment and mispricing and reward unproductive behaviour. Moreover, such externalities may impede innovation in renewable energy industries.

Regardless of economics, wind power appears to be an extremely popular method of energy production and WEAs regularly cite surveys that say 95% of respondents support the use of wind power. Unfortunately, community support is rarely matched by a willingness to pay the higher price for inefficient energy production. Even if consumers were willing to pay, it is clear that wind power’s limitations will make it very difficult to provide more than a small fraction of the world’s energy. Windmills might make us feel good, but it is probably time to search elsewhere for clean power

More here. Note that the article above omits one of the biggest costs of wind power -- the cost of backing up wind generators with coal-burning or oil-burning generators for when the wind is not blowing.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

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