Landfill Gas Symposium: Reduce Global Warming by Using Landfill Gas

March 1, 1998

3 Min Read
Landfill Gas Symposium: Reduce Global Warming by Using Landfill Gas

John H. Skinner

The Kyoto meeting is over. Now, the difficult phase of winning approval for a greenhouse gas reduction treaty is underway in the United States.

Although ratification in the Senate is doubtful this year, whatever the final outcome, it is important that the world recognize that efforts to control and use landfill gas (LFG) can make a positive contribution to any international strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At this year's 21st Annual Landfill Gas Symposium, we welcome you to participate in a number of sessions that will focus on the role of LFG in efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The collection and utilization of LFG can be a low-cost method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve fossil fuels.

LFG utilization provides a two-fold opportunity for reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

* preventing the release of methane, a greenhouse gas of concern; and

* providing a renewable energy source that can preclude the need for fossil fuel combustion, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in North America.

LFG, primarily methane and CO2, constitutes a significant source of methane emissions to the atmosphere in the nation - nearly 10.4 million metric tons in 1995, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Based on methane's higher heat trapping potential, this release is equivalent to releasing more than 218.4 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, almost 3 percent of net annual CO2 emissions in the United States.

Because LFG can be used as a fuel, it can replace the use of conventional fossil fuels used for heating or generating electricity. In 1995, 15 percent of the methane gas emitted from U.S. landfills was recovered and used to produce energy.

Currently, there are more than 150 LFG utilization projects operating in the nation, with 200 projects that can become operational within a few years, especially if federal incentives for greenhouse gas reductions are created.

The technology to control and reduce methane generated in landfills is well developed and cost-effective.

LFG utilization has been recognized as an important energy resource in numerous reports including the Department of Energy's 1997 Renewable Energy Annual Report.

LFG control projects are also recognized as a key component of the President's Global Climate Change Action Plan. EPA, under its Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), encourages landfill owners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by collecting and using LFG in place of fossil fuels.

LFG utilization can be one of the most cost-effective methods to reduce greenhouse gases in both developed and developing countries.

In developing countries, as economies and populations grow, the municipal solid waste generated will increase and LFG emissions will grow. Consequently, LFG utilization projects can provide local energy re-sources, creating immediate economic benefits while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

That is why the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program have recently begun a LFG utilization project in China.

In order to assure that a treaty is eventually ratified, it is important to take full advantage of LFG utilization.

Policymakers can encourage and support LFG utilization by assuring that the treaty:

* provides for comprehensive coverage of greenhouse gases (including methane);

* imposes economic value on the consequent greenhouse gas reductions;

* establishes a market trading system for emission reduction credits;

* supports trading of post-1990 emission reduction credits on a domestic and international basis, and

* provides maximum flexibility to ensure the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest cost.

It is encouraging that the United States proposal provides the opportunity for including these considerations in a final Kyoto agreement.

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