In Defense of Trash
This week, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate voted 62-37 to back military aviation biofuels. This means the "Green Hornet" will continue to fly despite objections from fossil fuel supporters.
The Department of Defense consumes 4.6 billion gallons of fuel per year making it the largest single
consumer of energy in America. With operations stretched all over the globe, the Air Force and Navy
consume about 85% of that total combined. Therefore the DoD has a strategic interest in fuel diversity
and security, especially in times of crisis.
The United States generates about 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste each year of which about
a third is recovered through recycling programs, etc. Another 13% is combusted for energy recovery,
leaving about 135 million tons going to landfills each year. There is sufficient organic material in that
MSW to generate well over 5 billion gallons of biobutanol (jet fuel) - more than required to meet the
military's needs. Obviously biofuels will not entirely replace fossil fuels but the potential is there with
Today we are building mountains of trash for our children and grandchildren. MSW processing facilities can take that trash and immediately convert to it to usable biofuels. The landfills will do the same but it will take centuries to recover. Sounds a little like fossil fuels doesn't it?
While this week's vote has no direct impact on MSW, the Senate has reaffirmed the importance of
biofuels in the nation's energy mix and in particular this nation's defense. Creating a market opportunity
such as this should spur continued investment in biofuels with all its intended benefits. Hopefully an
unintended consequence will be the elimination of landfills and a more beautiful America.
Ronald H. Miller
Ronald H. Miller is Managing Director and co-founder of Prisma Advisors, LLC a management advisory
firm specializing in advanced biofuels. Mr. Miller has over four decades of energy experience, including
CEO of a Fortune 1000 producer of biofuels and food products from agriculture.
November 28, 2012