The United States could generate enough energy each year by harnessing waste – from landfill decline to cow dung – to power the states of Oregon and Washington, all whereas cutting the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of carbon.
That’s according to research revealed in Nature Energy from UCLA industrial ecologist and energy economist Deepak Rajagopal and urban planning doctoral candidate Bo Liu.
“The benefit of utilizing waste is that we’re generating waste anyway. It’s a useful leftover resource that we have not conventionally thought about,” Liu stated.
The types of waste examined within the paper match under the umbrella of bioenergy—renewable resources which can be obtained from changing plant and animal materials into electrical energy, biofuels, or warmth. Whereas the U.S. does not produce power from waste on a big scale, Liu mentioned, the processes for obtaining power from organic materials are well established. European waste-to-energy plants, for instance, processed 106 million tons of waste in 2017, in keeping with the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants.
Biofuel is one sort of bioenergy that’s widely produced within the U.S.—almost all of it coming from agriculture. In 2011, 96% of the ethanol produced within the U.S. came from corn, according to the Biomass Energy Data Guide.
Policymakers and enterprise pursuits have promoted biofuels from crops for many years. In 2005, Congress handed standards that require incorporation of renewable fuels in gasoline and other transportation fuels. The U.S. additionally spent billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing ethanol over the past 35 years.
However, crop-based ethanol creates different issues—including increased food prices and environmental damage from expanding agriculture, such as habitat destruction, fertilizer runoff, and water use. These results have led some experts to name for reducing its use.
“The U.S. has tried biofuels, and they’re important because we need more renewables, but we want better biofuels,” Rajagopal said.