Sunday, December 24, 2017

Salem Area Driving May Double GHG Pollution from Incinerator

via Twitter
This past week the Federal Highway Administration seemed to exult in setting a new record in gas consumption.

And Salem Weekly followed up on some social media posting to note that our Brooks garbage incinerator is a huge greenhouse gas polluter.

But there's an element of comparison that might be missing. (The goal here is to sketch out an order-of-magnitude estimate, a back-of-the-envelope calculation. If you know of a more precise reckoning, do share it!)

Here are the top five polluters from the article with the number of tons reported as emissions:
  1. Covanta Marion, Inc. 160,517
  2. Kettle Foods, Inc. 8,491
  3. Bruce Packing Company 8,152
  4. Oregon State Penitentiary 7,127
  5. Norpac Foods, Inc. 6,659
The incinerator wipes out the pack by two orders of magnitude!

But even the incinerator emits less than our daily driving.

When the Corvallis MPO conducted a greenhouse gas pollution assessment, they estimated that each person (so on a per capita basis, not per car or driver), was responsible for 2.2 tons of greenhouse gas pollution from cars and light trucks in 2010.

So Salem's population is about 160,000, right? That means our driving alone generates about twice as much greenhouse gas pollution as the incinerator.

And if gas consumption is going up, even with more electrics and more efficient motors the emissions may be still more.

ODOT estimates that the total pollution from transportation is even higher:
travel of Oregonians and movement of goods consumed by Oregon’s households and businesses produce a large amount of GHG emissions; estimated to be approximately 24 million metric tons per year in 2010.
So personal driving in Salem alone counts for a little more than 300,000 tons of pollution per year, and Salem's proportion of the statewide 24 million total is about 1 million total tons per year from "travel and movement of goods consumed." That suggests "movement of goods consumed" creates another 700,000 tons. (700,000 seems high for this, it's true. But again, this is a back-of-the-envelope figure. If you know of a more precise calculation, please do point it out in the comments.)

All together, that's a lot more than the 160,000 tons from the incinerator, nearly an order-of-magnitude more!

That's an important reason we should embrace, and even intensify, our existing policies to reduce total driving - trip lengths and trip frequency - in addition to consuming less.

There are many reasons to be more passionate about these
Anyway, the argument here isn't that we should forget about the incinerator and focus only on driving and transportation, but that we need a broad-based strategy of driving less, consuming less, eating less meat, lots of things; and that it is a little misleading and missing context to say the incinerator is the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution here. (Remember Oregon Peaceworks' 5% project? A plan for people to reduce household emissions by 5% a year and incrementally to chunk away at their carbon footprint.)

Flashing Beacons at Crosswalks Imperiled?

During installation on Court Street in 2012
Separately, circulating on social media is a concerning note about Rapid Flashing Beacons for crosswalks, like ones on 12th at Mill, in front of the Capitol on Court and State, and on Commercial Street at City hall. The City has plans for more, but these plans may have to be put on hold.

via Twitter (see whole thread)
So that's something to consider in more detail early in the new year.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

The fact that the incinerator produces as much GHG as half the cars in Salem is bothersome to me. It is especially bothersome because it is totally not necessary. Cars are a necessary evil that we should rightfully try to limit their use and pollution. But the incinerator is a choice that is unwise and unnecessary.

If we closed the incinerator it would be like taking half the cars off the streets in terms of the amount of GHG in our air.

Let's do both....eliminate the incinerator AND stop using combustion engine vehicles.

Jim Scheppke said...

" is a little misleading and missing context to say the incinerator is the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution here."

Just to point out to you that the Salem Weekly article did not state that the Covanta Marion incinerator is the "biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution here." In the first paragraph it states that it is the biggest emitter in Marion County of all facilities that report to the DEQ. But your comparison to emissions from vehicles is interesting and useful. I like the way Susann chooses to look at the situation — that if we chose not to burn our trash and pay the highest garbage fees in the state in Marion County, it would be almost like taking half the cars and trucks off the road. There would still be emissions associated with taking our trash to a landfill, but as the article points out, those emissions would likely be far less than the emissions from Covanta Marion.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

On the flashing's the official memo. It's about patents.

"The MUTCD prohibits patented devices from experimentation...or inclusion
in the MUTCD. The FHWA has learned of the existence of four issued U.S. patents, and
at least one pending patent application, covering aspects of the Rectangular Rapid
Flashing Beacons (RRFB)....FHWA hereby rescinds IA-li for all new installations
of RRFB devices. Installed RRFBs may remain in service until the end of useful life of those devices and need not be removed.

Something sure is weird about that! Shouldn't that have been discovered in 2008?