. Streamlining environmental permitting of energy recovery facilities and making sure that energy recovery counts toward fulfillment of mandated recycling and diversion goals are both important steps that can be taken by policymakers at the state level.
. Sourcing energy from solid waste streams should be included in government renewable energy portfolios.
These shifts in public policy don't require large expenditures, multinational pipelines or drilling offshore. But they would swiftly open up a new source of domestic, abundant and renewable energy while setting our nation on a course to stop wasting our waste.
Fortunately, lawmakers are coming together to press for a comprehensive national energy strategy that includes recovering energy from waste. At a June forum of leaders in the energy recovery field, we were joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who made a nonpartisan, compelling case for including energy recovery in a national energy strategy. And I'm proud to say that Sen. John Cornyn (R) from my home state of Texas has been a strong supporter of energy recovery.
David Scott, a forward-thinking energy expert, says "waste is what's left when you run out of imagination." If we put our imagination to work, in the not too distant future, we'll look back at our long history of landfilling and ask ourselves: "What were we thinking?"
Michael Webber is associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.