Waste-To-Energy in the United States: A Social and Economic Assessment

By T. Randall Curlee; Susan M. Schexnayder et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Socioeconomics of Waste-to- Energy: Conclusions

7.1 THE MOTIVATION FOR THIS STUDY

Municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration was adopted by many U.S. communities during the 1980s to manage their growing quantities of MSW. Although less than 1 percent of all U.S. MSW was burned to retrieve its heat energy in 1970, VVTE grew to account for 16 percent of MSW in 1990, and many experts forecasted that WTE would be used to manage as much as half of all U.S. garbage by the turn of the century.

Those forecasts now are challenged by recent WTE project cancellations, and the long-run viability of WTE is in question. A total of 248 WTE projects in various stages of planning were canceled during the 1982 to 1990 time frame. Only 8 projects were scratched between 1982 and 1984, while 207 were abandoned between 1986 and 1990. To put these cancellations in perspective, consider that there were only 140 operational U.S. facilities in 1990 and that the total WTE capacity that was abandoned between 1986 and 1990 exceeded the total operational WTE capacity in 1990.

Why have these cancellations occurred, and what, if anything, do they tell us about the long-run viability of WTE in the United States? This study has taken an in-depth look at these questions by addressing numerous socioeconomic factors that have played a role in the decisions of communities that have considered WTE as a component of their solid waste management (SWM) strategies. More specifically, a three-pronged approach was adopted to investigate (1) the relationships between key socioeconomic characteristics and a municipality's decision to consider and accept or reject WTE, (2) the potential impacts of recent changes in financial markets on the viability of WTE, and (3) the WTE decision-making process and the socioeconomic parameters that are most important in the municipality's decision.

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Waste-To-Energy in the United States: A Social and Economic Assessment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xiii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Chapter 1 Introduction 1
  • Notes 7
  • Chapter 2 Why is Waste-To-Energy So Controversial? 9
  • Notes 33
  • Chapter 3 an Overview of Waste-To-Energy in the United States 37
  • Notes 61
  • Chapter 4 Waste-To-Energy in the United States and Key Socioeconomic Factors 63
  • Notes 95
  • Chapter 5 a Focus on Financial Issues 97
  • Notes 131
  • Chapter 6 Case Studies: Community Decision Making 135
  • Notes 212
  • Chapter 7 the Socioeconomics of Waste-To- Energy: Conclusions 215
  • Appendixes 229
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 251
  • About the Authors 259
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