Quantcast

Find Out Which State Wants to Include Burning Tires in Its Definition of 'Renewable Energy'

Renewable energy standards, which fueled the growth of clean energy technologies like wind and solar, are under attack, as fossil fuel interests fight to protect their greenhouse gas-emitting, climate change-fueling turf. Ohio has frozen its renewable energy standards, but in Michigan, legislators have come up with a whole new angle: renewable dirty energy.

Bet this didn't come to mind the last time someone mentioned "renewable energy."
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Yesterday, in the process of considering the extension of the state's renewable energy standards which expire next year, the Michigan House of Representatives passed HB 5205. It amends the state's Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act to include—burning tires? You bet! Or as the bill summary blandly puts it, "remove unnecessary burdens on the appropriate use of solid waste as a clean energy source."

The bill would "allow fuel manufactured from municipal solid waste, among other waste sources, to be a 'renewable energy resource' and revise the definition of the term, allow for the use of pyrolysis technologies [a method of making biofuels from a variety of waste products] in the generation of renewable energy, consider an advanced waste-to-energy facility to be a renewable energy system and remove the prohibition on granting a renewable energy credit for energy generated from municipal solid waste incinerators by exceeding the incinerator's nameplate capacity."

What does it mean when it says "revise the definition" of a "renewable energy resource"?  It would delete the current definition—"a resource that naturally replenishes over a human, not a geological, time frame and that is ultimately derived from solar power, water power or wind power. Renewable energy resource does not include petroleum, nuclear, natural gas or coal. A renewable energy resource comes from the sun or from thermal inertia of the earth and minimizes the output of toxic material in the conversion of the energy." And it would add fuel manufactured from waste of any type, including hazardous industrial waste, railroad ties and tires. The bill is supported by Dow Industries and the Michigan Chemical Council.

According to bill sponsor Aric Nesbitt, chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee, new technologies approved in the bill would allow non-recyclable plastics and other materials to be converted to energy with low emissions.

Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, disagrees with Nesbitt's contention that burning these wastes can be done in an environmentally friendly way.

"The House should be focused on expanding true clean, renewable energy, not allowing polluters to burn tires and call it 'renewable energy,'" she said. "House Bill 5205 is nothing more than a dangerous plan to pollute our air, land and water. It sets a dangerous precedent by changing the scientific definition of renewable energy."

“Michiganders from both sides of the aisle want more clean, renewable energy and we should be taking steps to reduce pollution, not encourage more of it,” said Wibke Heymach, Midwest regional manager for Moms Clean Air Force. “Encouraging the burning of hazardous waste will create more pollution and more health problems for Michigan kids, families and seniors.”

Nesbitt responded with attacks on groups like Wozniak's and Heymach's.

"Whether it's tires or other things, that's already happening, and the environmentalists, these extreme environmental groups will stop at nothing to prevent our progress toward an all-of-the-above energy policy," he said.

And Nesbitt's fellow Republican legislator Ed McBroom said, "There are piles of tires out of the middle of nowhere ... let's do something with them."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Ohio Gov. John Kasich Signs Nation's First Renewable Energy Freeze

Interactive Map: Find Out How Your State Ranks on Renewable Energy

How 76 State Representatives Crushed an ALEC-Funded Attack on Renewables

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.