REW 2016 Conference: Adapting to a new reality

By Kristin Smith, Renewable Energy from Waste Magazine.

Johannes Escudero, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas Inc., provides an update on the renewable natural gas market during the 2016 REW Conference. Seated are Harvey Gershman, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, left, and Ted Michaels, Energy Recovery Council.

With the election having concluded a week prior, the 2016 Renewable Energy from Waste (REW) Conference held in mid-November in Long Beach, California, had attendees discussing the implications of the results.

During the opening session titled “Waste Conversion Market Updates,” several speakers shared their views on the market for waste conversion, including biogas, at the local, and national levels. 

Moderator and speaker Harvey Gershman, president, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton (GBB), Fairfax Virginia, emphasized the importance of keeping waste local to create a circular economy. 

“You build a green gate so you don’t have to jump over a green fence,” he told attendees. 

He noted that 9,000 curbside recycling programs are operating in the U.S. and 347 million tons of municipal solid waste are managed in the U.S. 

Collecting waste is 40 percent of the cost of managing it and it is important for communities to try to “squeeze that inefficiency out.”

A lot of organics are left in the waste stream after recycling. To process these organics, several anaerobic digestion facilities are in the planning and construction phases.

He also mentioned that a Hartford, Maryland waste-to-energy facility closed down while a new facility in West Palm Beach, Florida began operating. “Did you hear about the problems?” he joked. “No there were none. It works,” he said of the new facility. 

Ted Michaels, president of the Energy Recovery Council (ERC) and partner, AJW Inc., Arlington, Virginia, gave some insights and predictions on how the election results will impact the waste to energy sector. 

“This was going to be a historic election either way,” he said. “We were either going to get the first female president or the first president with no government or military experience, and we got the latter.” 

He said it was a result that the experts didn’t see coming. “What can’t happen happened,” he said. “We don’t know what is possible.” 

The unpredictable results of Donald Trump winning the presidential election, he says shows that the country is deeply divided and very polarized. 

He noted that the first thing the President Elect is beginning to do is put his administration in place. 

The first big choice was picking RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, as White House chief of staff. 

A potential pick for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director which has since the presentation been confirmed was Myron Ebell. Michaels noted that he was a climate change skeptic and with him at the helm, the agency would scale back. The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) and other efforts to combat greenhouse gas emmisions “are going to be threatened,” said Michaels.

A top candidate for the Department of Energy was Harold G. Hamm, whom Michaels said is chief executive of continental resources, an oil and gas company, and a top candidate for the Department of the Interior is Forrest Lucas, president of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures automotive lubricants, additives and greases.

In states with gubernatorial elections, 5 Democrats and 6 Republicans were elected, making a total of 33 states with Republican governors and 15 with Democratic governors. State houses were significantly Republican and while he said in the senate, people thought senate would flip, but it stayed republican. 

For the first time ever, Michaels said, “Every state who elected a senator went for the same party in Presidential election.” The House of Representatives stayed roughly the same, he added with 194 Democrats to 241 Republicans. 

Key committee leadership affecting waste conversion policies, include the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

He noted that one of the Democrat ranking members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Thomas Carper signed the signed moratorium on new waste-to-energy facilities in Delaware.