Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Is Energy from Trash Sustainable?

British Airways to Buy Sustainable Jet Fuel Made From London Trash” informs us of a plan which seems quite common-sense and reasonable, and indeed, there is nothing new about waste-to-energy schemes. But will this ensure modern civilization’s energy future?

Before proceeding further, let me say that I have nothing at all against making good use of everything. I myself compost everything organic emitted by my household, and play the good citizen by participating in the local recycling program.

But let’s consider where all that “waste” comes from in the first place. Without fossil fuels — primarily oil — we wouldn’t have all that trash, because it is generated by economic activities that are powered by fossil fuels. And then the trash is picked up and hauled by trucks. Therefore, even if using trash to produce power or to make fuels is reducing reliance on fossil fuels, ultimately the whole operation is underpinned by fossil fuels. That doesn’t sound very “sustainable” to me.

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