A recent article in The New York Times talking about greenhouse gases focused on cattle and gas-and-oil production as the prime culprits. Not a single word was wasted on landfills, traditionally the poster child for climate changing anthropomorphic emissions. Imagine that!
How is it possible? Well, there are a number of possibilities, among which three leap to mind.
One hearkens back two decades to a SWANA LFG Symposium in which I heard Fred Rice—among the subject’s most experienced folks—describing the history of LFG emissions estimates. While I dare not put his words in quotes, I recall the gist of Fred’s tale was that the basis for decomposing wastes’ contribution to the overall atmospheric load proceeded upward on the back of such scientific expressions such as “I think” and “Well, it could be,” followed by a upwardly mobile number that achieved if not enthusiastic at least unopposed expression best reported as “Uh-huh.” This leads to the possible conclusion that LFG’s role as a greenhouse contributor was overstated from the git-go.
Of course, another possibility is that the author of the NYT article was ignorant of the LFG situation or had other fish to fry, but those lead in directions I’d prefer to leave alone.
The one I would prefer to pursue is that the omission of LFG from the article is a genuine reflection of the Herculean efforts by members of the landfill community over the past 25 or so years to contain, control, and make beneficial use of methane and CO2 emissions.
I would like to offer particular congratulations to SWANA’s Landfill Gas Division and EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program for the role each has played in spearheading remedial and utilization efforts that have shifted the focus from LFG to livestock and oil-and-gas extraction as the principal sources of greenhouse gasses.
This leads me to beat the drum for the Landfill Gas Supplement in our next issue of MSW Management. You won’t want to miss it.