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

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

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

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

Synopsis

This book presents the first comprehensive and unbiased assessment of the social and economic factors that drive decisions about waste-to-energy (WTE) projects in the United States. Information about each WTE project initiated between 1982 to 1990 is combined with detailed socioeconomic data at the county level to identify the social and economic differences between counties that have completed WTE facilities and counties that have abandoned their projects during the planning process. To examine the effects of political objectives, public attitudes, and the decision process itself, the book reports on four in-depth case studies--two directed at communities that have accepted WTE and two that have canceled WTE projects. The book also discusses the potential health and environmental risks posed by WTE and alternative waste practices, legislative initiatives and regulatory uncertainties, and the potential for energy production from burning our municipal waste.

Excerpt

During the course of researching and writing this book, the authors became keenly aware of the tremendous controversy that surrounds the incineration of municipal solid waste (MSW). Incineration with heat recovery, commonly called waste-to-energy (WTE), is a topic about which there is no lack of emotion, no shortage of opinions, and no want of issues around which controversy thrives. Environmental questions, regulatory uncertainties, financial risks, technology reliability, the relative costs of alternative approaches to waste management, the potential for those alternatives to manage different segments of the waste stream, and the decision process itself are often debated by opposing sides that label themselves as opponents or proponents of WTE. And the resolution of these key issues has all too often been hindered or blocked by the strategic positioning of the opposing sides. Both sides harbor a concern--even a fear--that the results of studies will be taken out of context and the use of certain terminology will bias the public and decision makers in a particular way.

This book does not take a position of either opposing or promoting WTE or any other method to manage municipal waste. Rather, the authors have strived for neutrality in addressing the complex social and economic issues that are often central to decisions about particular WTE projects and that will play a key role in determining the overall viability of WTE in the future. Although the focus of the book is on socioeconomic issues, background information is presented on the key technical, environmental, and health issues that, in part, fuel the current controversy. Great care has been taken to summarize the various arguments, not with the purpose of assessing the accuracy of the arguments about health and environmental impacts or technology constraints--which is beyond the scope of this study--but simply as background on the social and economic sources of the controversy.

It is hoped that this book will be viewed as a dispassionate assessment . . .

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