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[greenyes] Landfills and Global Warming
    I do regret that Stephen declined my suggestion that we take the 
detailed arguing about landfills' contribution to global warming off line 
and come back after we've worked through the technical points as much as we 

    Let me ask everyone's sufferance to just summarize the bottom line 
response to his main points, without the technical details, and indicate 
that anyone who wishes them can write me directly and I'll be more than 
happy to expand off the listserve.

    Here are Stephen's main points, and my abbreviated response:

    1. Nitrogen oxide has greater warming potential than methane.

    This is true, but that has no effect on the discussion because all 
sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) are converted to a carbon-equivalent 

    2.  Methane's total contribution to greenhouse gases on a 
carbon-equivalent basis is less than 10% of total manmade gases, and 
landfills are only a fraction of that.

    This generally describes EPA's estimates, but that is precisely the 
point which I am making.  EPA's estimates are grossly wrong, and that can be 
appreciated by a very simple poke under the hood, as Ross Perot used to say.

    Today's dry tomb landfills with gas collection cannot possibly achieve a 
lifetime rate of 75% efficiency as the agency ASSUMES without any factual 
basis whatsever, because the collection systems are not installed or 
functioning 56% of the time and are only marginally functional another 12% 
of the time.  To achieve a lifetime rate of 75%, when these downtimes are 
accounted for, the gas collection equipment would have to capture 150% of 
the gas when it is operating.  That is quite an engineering feat, even for 
the unique scientific skills this Administration has demonstrated here and 
in Social Security, the Budget and Iraq to transform reality on its head.

    Although hard data does not exist, from that which is known, actual 
uncontrolled methane emissions from landfills are between 4.1 and 4.5 times 
the 193 Tg CO2 Equiv. estimated by EPA, as will be documented in an upcoming 
90 page report we are in the process of completing.

    Bottom line: instead of EPA's 3.1% estimate, landfills probably are 
contributing between 11.3% - 12.2% to manmade greenhouse gases in the 
U.S. -- that's second only to fossil fuel combustion. And it's a GHG source 
that can be eliminated over time were landfills required to really meet 
environmental standards, which would increase their costs to the point were 
more aggressive recycling and expanded composting could outcompete disposal 
in the marketplace and ratchet diversion to more than 70-80% of waste 
generation, and remove the nettlesome decomposable fraction that rots from 

    Think of it, we can lope off 10-15% of the gases causing global warming, 
move to a more sustainable world, and save money(when long term costs are 
accounted for), all at the same time.  Recyclers can be at the forefront of 
this transformative moment if we come to understand our role in making a 
better world and then move together to educate the public and decision 
makers of these facts.

    3. In the future, landfills' methane emissions will decline as systems 

    There is a small germ of truth to this, but the negative factors are not 
recognized and dwarf the positive ones.

    Yes, new landfills tend to be larger than the average of existing 
landfills, and more larger landfills will be required by EPA's Landfill Air 
Rule to install active gas collection systems than in the past because only 
large landfills are covered.

    However, EPA has greenlighted a second generation landfill called 
bioreactor landfills, and for the reasons I already outlined, bioreactors 
will dramatically increase near-term methane emissions.  In addition, even 
apart from bioreactors, in recent years there has been a major shift to an 
ad hoc process called leachate recirculation that, for similar reasons as in 
bioreactors, will increase near-term uncontrolled releases.

    If EPA were to accurately describe these events rather than wearing 
glasses so rose colored that no light of day can enter, the trend line of 
future estimates of gas releases from landfills would be increasing 
substantially, above and beyond the quadrupling needed for current estimates 
noted above.

    4.  Numerous reviewers of EPA's methodology have validated gas 
collection efficiency rates of 60%-90%.

    I wish space -- and Greenyes's reader's time -- permitted a fuller 
response because so that I could document right now the following statement.

    But, suffice for the moment to say, that, first, none of this involves 
any field measurement; second, it is all out-of-thin-air-estimates; third, 
EPA did everything in its power to only take such made up numbers from those 
with a vested interest in continuing the fictionalized analysis being 
employed; and fourth, when divergent views nonetheless slipped in, EPA 
simply restated them to pretend they said the opposite or just ignored them.

    Bottom Line: There is no factual basis for a 75% capture rate and that 
assumed number falls on its on weight because it is a mathematical 

    5.  Landfills are energy sinks that trap more greenhouse gases than they 

    Stephen presents his case in a way that discredits his position more 
than he needs to, to the extent readers interpret him to be saying that 
because garbage is temporarily buried, all that carbon is sequestered 
notwithstanding gas being generated whenever water enters the site.

    In fact, it is true that the lignin in wood, and hence in paper 
products, does effectively trap a part of the carbon in our wastes.

    But, that effect is already accounted for in the analysis, and the net 
impact does not effect the bottom line.


PS Stephen, please see me off line to see if we can at least reduce the 
number of outstanding issues needed to consume listserve space on.

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address


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