Sinks and Emission Offsets

Raw materials aquisition

Energy and non-energy-related emissions f»U Uncontrolled CH4 emissions or 4 CH4 flared and recovered energy


Energy and Reduced carbon non-energy- sequestration in related emissions forests

Energy and non-energy-related emissions

6 Infobase Publishing


Energy-related 2 emissions

Emissions Emissions f»U Uncontrolled CH4 emissions or 4 CH4 flared and recovered energy

Avoided fossil Increased forest fuel use carbon sequestration

Carbon storage in soil

Carbon storage in soil

Avoided fossil fuel use

Avoided fossil fuel use

Carbon in long-term storage in landfill

Avoided fossil fuel use ro

o potent than CO2. Landfilling is the most common whole management practice. One of the biggest problems with landfills, other than the space they take up, is the fact that as the organic material decomposes under anaerobic conditions (without the presence of oxygen) it produces methane.

Carbon-containing materials contained in landfills that do not decompose fully sequester that carbon during the lifetime the material remains buried in the landfill, keeping it from being released into the atmosphere. One promising development concerning landfills is that modern technology has developed to the point that landfill methane can now be captured and converted into a source of energy. According to the EPA, landfills are the single largest human source of methane emissions in the United States. It is produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic materials such as yard waste (grass clippings, weeds, etc.), household waste, food waste, and paper. Methane actually creates an explosion hazard in landfills. Landfill gas also contains volatile organic compounds that contribute to ground-level ozone (smog).

Today, the Clean Air Act requires many landfills to collect and burn their landfill gas emissions. Energy recovery can use the energy value of landfill gas and displace the use of fossil fuels. With this technology, offsetting the use of coal and oil to generate electricity or heat reduces emissions of GHGs and other pollutants (such as sulfur dioxide—a major contributor to acid rain).

Another positive feature of landfill gas is that it is constantly generated, enabling it to be a reliable fuel for several energy applications, such as power generation or direct use. Electric utilities can use landfill gas-to-energy renewable energy projects—a viable source of green power. According to the EPA, it is even feasible for industrial facilities, uni-

(opposite page) The four main stages of product life cycles, all of which provide opportunities for GHG emissions and/or offsets, are raw material acquisition, manufacturing, recycling, and waste management.

versities, hospitals, and other large energy users to benefit by connecting directly into landfill gas from local landfills once facilities are set in place. Once connected, these large operations can burn the landfill gas to provide their own heat, hot water, or electricity.

Concerning the waste that is already in landfills, the EPA has a landfill methane outreach program (LMOP) that puts the waste to a good use. As the organic wastes within a landfill decompose, they produce methane gas—a GHG that contributes to global warming. The LMOP shows communities and companies how to capture landfill gas and convert it to energy.

Currently, LMOP is a voluntary assistance and partnership program that promotes the use of landfill gas as a renewable, green energy source. The gas is composed primarily of CO2 and methane. The LMOP forms partnerships with communities, landfill owners, utility companies, power marketers, states, tribes, project developers, and nonprofit organizations. The EPA set this program up as part of the U.S. commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Landfill gas (LFG) is extracted from landfills using a series of wells and a blower/flare (or vacuum) system. The system carries the collected gas to a central point where it is processed. From there, it can either be flared or used to generate electricity, replace fossil fuels in industrial and manufacturing operations, fuel greenhouse operations, or be upgraded to pipeline quality gas. As of December 2007, there were approximately 445 operational LFG energy projects in the United States. There are several methods for converting LFG to energy—electricity generation, direct use, cogeneration, and alternate fuels.

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