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[greenyes] Energy Bill and Recycling
Just a heads up that HR6, the Energy Policy Act of 2003 that has just been passed by the House, contains a range of provisions likely to harm recycling and composting.  Though I am still in the process of analyzing the bill, it is clear that many wastes that can be recycled will receive tax subsidies of 1.8 or 1.2 cents per kWh if they are instead burned for electricity.  So far I've seen no countervailing subsidies to recycling to at least keep some neutrality among the options.  This once again demonstrates the folly of recycling interests trying to obtain subsidies for recycling rather than contesting subsidies to landfilling, incineration, and virgin materials production, all of which devalue recycling.

The following practices are eligible for subsidies under the bill and likely to harm recycling and composting:

-Landfill gas
-Waste-to-energy plants burning mixed MSW (this is one of first bills to include WTE on the list of "qualified" biomass facilities.  Normallly, it is explicitly excluded.
-Another notable exception:  almost all the past versions of the "biomass subsidies for everybody" provisions excluded old growth timber from eligibility.  This one does not.  I guess old growth makes good fuel...
-Waste pallets and construction and demolition debris of all types other than treated wood.
-Other electricity made from wood residues, including at existing facilities.  This appears to provide tax subsidies to existing energy recovery at paper mills (among others).  I working to confirm this, but if it is the case, would be a subsidy of hundreds of millions of dollars to virgin paper production for something they've already been doing for 30 years.  
-Paper that is not "commonly recycled," which will likely harm attempts to broaden the range of recycled fiber.  No definition of what falls into the "commonly recycled" category.
-For composting, pretty much anything woody out of a forest, anything with carbon on a farm.  This includes wastes from sheep, pigs, chickens, and cows that get subsidized if you make electricity out of it.  Especially with animal wastes, the primary beneficiaries will be the very large animal factory farms, as they are the ones with enough waste to run an energy plant.  The provisions, aside from undermining organics recovery through composting, will also worsen the relative economics of family versus corporate farms, and of organic farms (which rely on nutrient recycling) versus chemical-intensive farms.

In fact, all of the issues I highlighted in a past op-ed on and earlier energy bill seem to be items of concern in HR 6.  See: 

For more on the impact of landfill gas subsidies on recycling see: 

For details on the energy bill provisions I've evaluated to date (lots of the recycling stuff not yet in there), see: 

Finally, for a bit of satire on the rather sordid process of this bill, see:

Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02140
Tel:  617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463

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