mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Dumpster Fire
How Burning Trash Can Be Good for the Planet

A waste incinerator facility in Oslo, Norway recently wrapped up a successful year-long test run of a carbon capture system that, according to those running the project, went off without a hitch. Reuters reports:

“We had very promising results,” said Oscar Graff, head of carbon capture, utilization and storage at Aker Solutions, which ran the year-long test since January 2016 with a facility bolted onto Oslo’s main Klemetsrud waste incinerator. “Here you have almost everything which can burn … plastics, tyres, suitcases, whatever,” he told Reuters. He said the test found “no show stoppers” such as chemical reactions producing damaging foam, pollution or emissions to the air. […]

This was more proof-of-concept than an exemplary experiment for other cities to heed, in large part because the costs associated with this sort of carbon capture and storage (CCS) system are, by almost any standard, prohibitively high. The technical director of this Norwegian project told Reuters that this approach “put the cost of avoiding a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions at above 100 euros ($107) a tonne [sic].” That price tag is more than anyone but the most rabid environmentalists are going to be willing to bear.

But there is still plenty of potential for CCS systems. If researchers and companies can find new ways to bring the costs of these projects down to more reasonable levels, we could roll these out in cities around the world and essentially eliminate our greenhouse gas footprint on the atmosphere. It would be the climate equivalent of removing the bullets from a gun.

It wouldn’t be as simple as constructed a handful of these sorts of facilities, though. Reuters has more:

On Monday…an international report said the world may need 4,000 big CCS plants by 2030, against only a few dozen now in operation or planned, to get on track for the Paris goals for limiting heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels. “The growth in solar and wind has been great, but it needs to accelerate, and there are yawning gaps like CCS,” said lead author Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

CCS isn’t there yet, and it might not ever become cost-effective enough to fulfill its extraordinary potential for climate change mitigation, but test results like those coming to us out of Norway this week should give hope to those concerned about our ability to meet the challenges posed by our warming planet. In many ways we got ourselves into this mess, but we also have the capacity to get ourselves out of it.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Disappeared4x

    Garbage is a useful source of electricity with waste-to-energy incinerators. Carbon capture is a worthy goal. Should waste-to-energy incineration be a bridge technology?, or, do we have to wait for the elusive unicorn of carbon-capture? The dilemma posed by this Reuters report from Jan. 31, 2017 requires editing in next sentence: “…or emissions to the air. The incinerator, which generates energy for heating buildings in the Norwegian capital, emits about 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, about 0.6 percent of Norway’s total. …”

    What is the ratio of CO2 emissions to kwh? How does it compare to coal-fired and gas-fired electricity generation?

    Surely New Jersey, pioneer of waste-to-energy incinerators in the USA, has the answer. NYC exports their garbage to NJ for burning, surely AG Schneiderman would have asked by now.

    • Fat_Man

      ” NYC exports their garbage to NJ for burning”

      This is the opening line of a bad comedy routine.

  • Andrew Allison

    Controlling the climate is a chimera. It would be much more beneficial to focus on dealing with it. It bears repeating that despite a roughly 30% increase in atmospheric CO2 during the past 20 years there has been NO statistically significant increase in global temperature (

  • Fat_Man

    This makes almost no sense at all. If the point is to reduce the production of CO2, the answer is to not incinerate the trash. Landfill (i.e. bury) it. If the point is to produce energy. Forget it. Natural Gas, which Norway, and the US, has in abundance produces far less CO2.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Why do people keep saying Carbon capture? It is CO2 people want to capture not Carbon. And by the way CO2 is plant food. The more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the greener our planet gets. At too low a level of CO2 plants die.

    • Proverbs1618

      Making planet more hospitable to various species of plant life is bad for the environment because reasons. THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED!!!!

    • LarryD

      >> At too low a level of CO2 plants die.

      And it came close to happening, during the last ice age.

      GEOCARB III, is a reconstruction of the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide for the last 600 million years. Even following the bottom of the uncertainty region, carbon dioxide has exceeded Dr Hansen’s tripping point many fold, for millions of years. So either the fundamental theory on which AGW is based is false, or we are all figments in a simulation that got the physics wrong.

  • Kneave Riggall

    Why burn garbage at $107 a ton when you can burn natural gas at $2.60/MMBtu?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service