Coming to A Kiln Near You: The Brave New World of “Alternative Fuels”

A profile of a Florida Cemex plant reveals the fluidity of current fuel mixes finding their way to your local neighborhood kiln. The entire industry is in flux as a result of new EPA emission rules, concern about greenhouse gases, and the costs of coal in a poor economy. That’s opened up possibilities that just weren’t there even five years ago. In this case, the good news is that agricultural waste such as peanut shells and wood chips are being taken seriously. The bad news is that the plant is still burning tires and tire “fluff” – the polyester part of what you roll on –  and trying to equate those hazardous “non-hazardous”  wastes with with the biofuels that could really improve air quality. We’re seeing the same thing here in North Texas with TXI’s new proposed “Landfill in the Sky” permit that could have the Midlothian plant burning everything from Switchgrass and Wheat Straw (Good) to plastic trash and car “fluff” – all the non-steel parts of a car ground up into piles that are thrown into the kiln (Bad). Because of the uncertainty surrounding where all this is going in light of new EPA definitions of “solid wastes” and “recycling,” now is a good time for citizens to intervene in local permit fights and state and federal policy decisions in order to direct that chaos in a direction that benefits public health. In this case “crisis” really does translate into “danger” and “opportunity.”

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