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Too soon to take out the trash

By Chris Thompson

The friction caused by the furious hand-wringing over plasma gasification could, in itself, be considered a form of renewable energy.

Alliance Federated Energy LLC wants to build the Project Apollo plant in Milwaukee to burn trash to convert it to electricity. Technically, according to state law, this plasma gasification process is considered a form of renewable energy, at least in terms of meeting the state’s goals for production of such energy.

The pressure is on Alliance to prove it can make good on its projection that the $235 million plant can produce 30 megawatts of electricity. The state opened the door for companies such as Alliance, and no one should blame the firm for making itself at home.

But judging by the reaction of groups such as RENEW Wisconsin and the Waukesha Environmental Action League, the inclusion of garbage-burning plants in the state’s renewable energy portfolio represents an insult to the purity of wind and solar.

But the strength of the protest suggests an ulterior motive. Wind and solar are the king and queen of the renewable energy market, and it only makes sense they would move quickly to put down a challenger to the throne.

We’re talking market share, here, and money trumps purity, even in the world of renewable energy.

But Alliance still has to make it happen. It has to show its plant won’t blanket Milwaukee with a carbon footprint. It has to respond to questions over access to enough trash to make a go of the operation. It has to accelerate the learning curve in a city that would host the first such plant in the country.

To prevent Alliance from even trying to support its case simply would be a waste of energy.

Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1818.


  1. People complain about the cost of energy all of the time and usually try to blame renewable energy for any increases they see in their bills regardless of the facts. This technology will be WAY more expensive than many forms of renewable and traditional sources of energy. If we’re going to paying extra on our energy bills I want to know that it is helping to improve the environment as a result. This technology is not new; it is extremely outdated and has few environmental benefits. This was nothing more than a handout from corrupt legislators like Senator Plale to a shady business that recruited expensive lobbyists to peddle their technology.

    It is a shame that Plale + his corrupt cronies killed legislation that would have actually promoted renewable energy sources and instead passed a bill that opens the door for expensive trash incinerators. Thanks a lot.

  2. Charlene Lemoine

    Waukesha County Environmental Action League (WEAL) is an all volunteer group, established in 1978. Our only “ulterior motive” is to protect the environment.

    There are no plasma gasification projects like the one AFE plans to build in anywhere in North America, and none that are 1200 tpd (tons per day) anywhere in the world. The most mentioned facility is approximately 200 tpd in Japan.

    There are a number of environmental issues associated with plasma gasification, including emissions. A very recent (5/25/2010) article in the Ottawa Citizen reveals plans for a 400 tpd gasification project in Ottawa is on hold because the 80 tpd demonstration project has consistently exceeded allowable emissions and has only been able to operate for 85 hours since operations began in January 2008.

    Although plasma gasification has been around for more than four decades. Burning municipal solid waste is a relatively recent idea developed as a means to take advantage of renewable energy credits and various tax incentives.

    SB 273 was amended specifically to offer AFE’s plasma gasification project renewable energy status. This was done at the end of the legislation session without a single opportunity to question, discuss or debate plasma gasification as renewable energy, or address environmental issues associated with these incinerators in disguise.

    Neither plasma gasification or cheaper landfill alternatives are good environmental choices We should be working to reduce dependence on all forms of disposal by promoting less expensive Zero Waste practices like product stewardship, re-manufacturing, increased recycling and serious composting..

  3. “[T]he strength of the protest suggests an ulterior motive…”

    Yes, the horrible ulterior motive here, at least among environmental and public health groups, is to ensure that limited public resources are directed wisely, to truly clean and green energy sources. We need to respond to climate change quickly and wisely, for all our sakes.

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