Michigan lawmaker wants to call burning tires “renewable energy”

Old tires

A Michigan house representative is trying to re-define renewable energy, with a bill that would make burning tires and other industrial solid waste count towards the state’s mandate of generating 10 percent of its energy from renewables.

Aric Nesbitt introduced the bill to Michigan’s house of representatives on March 15 of this year. The bill states that, if passed, it will “remove unnecessary burdens on the appropriate use of solid was as a clean energy source.”

The bill would also repeal Michigan’s energy efficiency law, which currently requires utilities to create programs that reduce energy use by one percent annually.

The idea of diverting waste like used tires and industrial by-products from landfills may seem like an ecological good, and the United States Environmental protection Agency does recognize “Tire-Derived Fuel” as an “alternate energy source.” Yet waste-to-energy programs raise some serious concerns. First, the process of burning these materials can release a number of toxins into the air, and can still contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Secondly, it’s something of a mistake to think of plastics, tires and other petroleum-based products, even as we dispose of staggering amounts of them each year, as a renewable resource. Most plastics are by-products of the fossil-fuel industry, a decidedly limited resource. Finally, burning these materials may hinder the kinds of innovation that could either find true recycling solutions or move away from the disposable product designs.

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