Environmentalism

Maryland's New 'Clean Energy' Bill Includes Millions in Subsidies for Pollution-Spewing Trash Incinerators and Paper Mills

The state treats burning trash as a renewable energy source worthy of taxpayer support.

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Baloncici/Dreamstime.com

Environmentalists in Maryland are split over a newly passed state bill that jacks up the percentage of the state's electricity that must come from renewable sources while also directing millions of dollars in subsidies to pollution-spewing trash incinerators.

On Monday, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which mandates that 50 percent of the state's power come from renewable sources by 2030, with 14.5 percent of that coming from solar energy. That is a hefty increase from the state's current goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2020, of which only 2.5 percent had to be solar.

The bump in the renewable mandate may look like a real win for environmentalists and renewable energy companies, and, indeed, many are treating it as such.

"The global warming crisis is here, and the Clean Energy Jobs [Act] is our answer," said Brooke Harper of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in a press release, describing the passage of the bill as "a historic vote that creates jobs, fights climate change, and makes a difference."

"With the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019, Maryland is reclaiming its leadership position in the fast-developing offshore wind energy sector underway in the United States," said Salvo Vitale, of Baltimore-based wind energy company U.S. Wind, in a statement.

As with a lot of legislation, however, the devil is in the details. So what actually counts as renewable energy? In the case of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019, that category includes the decidedly less-than-green practice of burning things like municipal solid waste and black liquor—a waste byproduct sourced from paper mills.

"Trash incineration is the most expensive and polluting way to make energy or to manage waste. It's actually worse than putting waste directly into landfills, and is dirtier than coal-fired plants," says Mike Ewall of the Energy Justice Network. "Subsidizing them makes no sense."

Three trash incineration plants currently provide Maryland with electricity. There is one in Baltimore; another in Montgomery County near Washington, D.C.; and a third across the state border in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Maryland sources its black liquor-generated power from 11 paper mills located in a number of different states.

The Baltimore trash incinerator, The Wheelabrator, is the city's largest source of industrial pollution. A report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit, found that the plant caused $55 million in health problems a year.

Nevertheless, the plant has collected about $10 million over six years in subsidies, according to a 2017 Baltimore Sun article, thanks to its status under state law as a renewable energy source. Black liquor producers have received another $60 million in subsidies from the state.

Since 2004, Maryland has set goals for the amounts of energy that the state's utilities had to source from qualified renewable sources. The state also provided subsidies in the form of refundable tax credits to the producers of these qualified renewable sources.

In 2011, the state legislature broadened the list of what it considered "renewable" to include those dirty trash incinerators, allowing their proprietors to collect clean energy tax credits, and securing them ready customers from utilities looking to meet their renewable energy mandates.

In 2017, trash incinerators produced 10 percent of the "renewable energy" in Maryland, while black liquor accounted for 24 percent.

Past efforts to cut black liquor off from clean energy subsidies have run into concerted opposition from the United Steel Workers Union, which represents workers at most of the paper mills that Maryland sources electricity from.

An attempt to get trash incineration out of the state's clean energy program has come much closer to success. This year, the state Senate amended the Clean Jobs Act to exclude trash incineration as an acceptable renewable energy source. But that change nearly killed the bill, and the incinerators were added back in by the state's House of Delegates.

Trash incineration's continued inclusion in this year's Clean Energy Jobs bill—as well as in a state plan to study the feasibility of nuclear power—has Ewall and the Energy Justice Network asking Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, to veto the bill.

As to why other environmental groups are singing the bill's praises, Ewall says it's a matter of priorities.

"The difference is that you have some groups that just want to report back to their funders and say, 'look we have a 50 percent goal now instead of 25,'" says Ewall. "It's not important to them that the dirty stuff is out, but for us, from a public health perspective, and an environmental justice perspective, that is paramount."

At the very least, a state's clean energy initiative should focus on actual clean energy, not on funneling millions of dollars in subsidies to some of the state's worst polluters.

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  1. This is a veeeerrrry complicated picture here that has tendrils that reach out into every corner of environmental policy, almost all of it pushed by… environmentalists. I believe one of the reasons trash incinerators have started to come back in vogue is the collapse of the recycling market around the globe. Everyone is beginning to realize that recycling was bullshit and backlash is kicking in. As a result, municipalities are being stuck with expensive piles of trash in facilities that literally have nothing to do with the stuff that was automagically being turned into post-consumer products and instead were going to landfills. As that truth became increasingly apparent, cities are now looking into incinerating it and at least getting some electricity out of it.

    In other environmental news, an environmental idea that the Clinton foundation pushed has turned out to be a complete fraud and prison sentences are inbound.

    Also, Tesla is now selling cars to Fiat/Chrysler to be stored in a warehouse, never sold or never driven so they can meet their Green Energy Compliance Targets by producing the requisite number of electric vehicles.

    Environmentalism, it’s killing the fucking planet.

    1. It may be killing the planet, but it’s a great racket.

    2. They stole $54 million dollars and didn’t set up a way to get out of the country and to some place where they couldn’t be extradicted? Here is a list of all the countries that do not extradite to America.

      http://www.wsfa.com/story/2266…..y-with-us/

      I think I could with $54 million bribe my way into and live a comfortable life once I was there in several of those places. Dumb asses.

    3. How do I get me some environmentalism? That sounds like a money maker extraordinaire!

    4. One of the most hilarious pictures on this topic is one of a bunch of Teslas hooked up to a diesel generator.

    5. “automagically”

      I’m stealing that.

      1. Steal? It’s standard English already, man.

        It was coined in the 1940s by advertisers, was collected as slang in current use the 11th incremental version of the Jargon File (1977-07-04), got published in all four print editions of the File (The Hacker’s Dictionary in 1983 and the three editions of The New Hacker’s Dictionary in 1991, 1993, 1996), and currently is in at least one mainstream dictionary.

        1. You can also see it at the Magic Kingdom @ Disney World, where the Philharmagic attraction says in guilded goldish lettering, “Stand Clear, these doors open automagically”.

    6. “Also, Tesla is now selling cars to Fiat/Chrysler to be stored in a warehouse, never sold or never driven so they can meet their Green Energy Compliance Targets by producing the requisite number of electric vehicles.”:

      “Fiat Chrysler to pay Tesla hundreds of millions of euros to pool fleet”
      […]
      “The report did not mention exactly how much Fiat Chrysler has agreed to pay Tesla.
      Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
      Tesla has made over $1 billion in the last three years by selling emissions credits in the United States, according to its annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Regulations allow a manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles to earn credits and sell excess credits to other manufacturers.
      The credits in the past have buoyed the Palo Alto, California company’s earnings, allowing it to post quarterly profits when otherwise it would have posted a loss….’
      http://www.reuters.com/article…..SKCN1RJ03I

    7. Good intentions! Producing perverse incentives since the first regulator crawled out of the primordial ooze.

    8. (OTTMAR EDENHOFER, UN IPCC OFFICIAL): Basically it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War… First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

      Christiana Figueres, leader of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.”

  2. So in Maryland, literal dumpster fires get subsidized.
    Wow.

    1. It is better than stacks of trash sitting around. But hey, people like you thinking you are recycling and helping the environment allows you to virtue signal and that is what its all about.

      1. In my town, like so many others, there is a pick-up for regular trash and one for recycled products. After several years, my wife is now on board with me – we do not segregate that which is to be picked up by the garbage men.

        Fuck recycling.

        1. In my town, regular trash pickup is expensive and “recycling” is free – even if they’re both dumped into the same landfill.

      2. Oh look it’s John arguing against a strawman again.

    2. The photo is interesting because I have never seen dumpster like that in America. They are common place in Ukraine and Russia though as are fences like the one behind the dumpsters. So, not only are they not incinerators but they aren’t even American.

  3. which mandates that 50 percent of the state’s power come from renewable sources by 2030, with 14.5 percent of that coming from solar energy

    Ugh. Electricity is currently (ha) relatively cheap in MD. I guess those days will soon be coming to an end. Maybe I can save money in the future by burning all my trash to generate power.

  4. Its funny. The original Environmentalists were the crazy ideologues who were so beholden to the Original Sin/Eden cultural mythos that they gravitated to any Man Is Bad excuse they could find. Then came the communists who saw in environmentalism a perfect excuse to reorder society in their anti-capitalist ways. Now, the movement has been completely coopted by opportunists who are merely using the system to line their pockets.

    The funny thing is that never in any of this movement did anyone really, deeply believe in the environment. It was merely a canvas upon which they could paint the human mysticism and greed that have been around since Grog first beat Og with a stick after seeing an albino wolf eating a one eyed deer.

    The Environment? Pheh! What is that anyway? What are you saving? You want to preserve a swamp leach because why…? It was here? You want to reorder human industry to save some coastal city when coastal cities have been sinking beneath the waves for thousands of years? What is it about the environment circa 1900 that is so special that we need to preserve it, that doesn’t depend on some mystical mumbo jumbo?

    It is these ideologies that attract radicals, who bring fanatics, and ultimately grifter tyrants, because their aim is so existentially vague as to cue into the Gods fearing lizard brain of every human on the planet. What horseshit.

    Now let’s get back to talking about the NAP!

    1. Your whole post is about the NAP.

      Its about the Gaia crazies, loonies, and grifter tyrants initiating aggression against human industry.

    2. Then came the communists who saw in environmentalism a perfect excuse to reorder society in their anti-capitalist ways.

      Have you been to a post-communist country? If there is any group that has figured out a way to destroy the planet quickly and completely, it’s the commies. Just like people are property of the state and can be used, abused and discarded at the whim of the state, so can any resource and use, abuse and discard they did. Commies don’t care about the environment; they only care about control.

  5. The state treats burning trash as a renewable energy source worthy of taxpayer support.

    I’m confused here.

    1. Trash *is* renewable. I don’t see why you would think otherwise. If trash isn’t renewable, neither is corn. And neither is wind, hydro, or solar – all of which are dependent on limited supplies of fusionable materials.

    2. How is burning trash in incinerators less green than a natural gas plant? Or a solar plant – which, I would remind you, has maaaaaaassssssssiiiiiiiiiiivvvvve, I mean yuge, carbon emmissions during the construction phase compared to the amount of actual energy it recovers in operation. They’re really as bad a coal.

    1. How is burning trash in incinerators less green than a natural gas plant?

      The air pollution?

      1. No kidding – one of the great things is that after a 150 year steady climb in air pollution in the US, our air is actually getting cleaner every year since 2006-2007 because of natural gas fired power plants. Pollution is going down! You won’t hear that from the “sky is falling” crowd.

      2. How do people think this works? These aren’t dumpster fires. They’re *incinerators* – which will have the standard pollution control devices commercial incinerators have had for a generation now.

        Nobody’s shoveling trash into the firebox of a steam generator and blowing clouds of ash and smoke out the end.

        1. The article linked above regarding the incinerator in Baltimore paints a different picture. Maybe it uses scrubbers. If so, it needs better ones.

        2. I’d imagine the “standard pollution control devices” for commercial trash incineration are somewhat less effective than the standard devices for natural gas, considering natural gas is (ideally) a pure hydrocarbon while trash is a random jumble of other stuff

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  7. Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax.

    A bill supported by Democrats and Republicans would make permanent a program that bars the IRS from ever developing its own online tax filing service.

    Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system.

    Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

    In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits.

    1. the agency could provide people with pre-filled tax forms containing the salary data the agency already has

      But NOOOOOOOO!!!

    2. What exactly is “Free” about a shitty government service that is provided by taxpayer dollars? This is insane.

      The whole reason the IRS shouldn’t be offering “free services” that can be provided by the market for a cost is that the government shouldn’t be competing with the private market. It is typically bad at it, because it doesn’t have a profit motive. It can run at a loss forever, driving private competitors out of the market.

      As for the agency providing people with pre-filled tax forms containing salary data, what the fuck do people think a W2 is? It takes me literally 20 seconds to import my W2 into Turbo Tax. And then begins the 8 hours of tax preparation bullshit that ACTUALLY constitutes filing taxes.

      I remember 5 years ago when finishing my taxes, TT would pop up with “We found a problem with line 42 on form 321Niner. Please fill in the actualized variance of your prorated value as expected”. It was horrible- as basically it was a line in the tax forms that TT hadn’t figured out how to automate. Over the past 5 years, this has gone down to basically nil. The only field I had to fill out manually on a form was an address for my kids daycare. The IRS system would basically have these manual steps 90% of the process, because they have no need to do better.

      Don’t get me wrong, I believe H&R and Intuit are rent seekers. But they are correct here. This is not the government’s job. If they want to add value, simplify the taxes!

      1. Simplify the taxes? Do you want to put the whole tax preparation industry out of business? That’s a lot of jobs.

  8. pollution-spewing trash incinerators

    Nice band name.

    Salvo Vitale

    Nice name.

  9. I was just reading about what these kinds of environmental mandates are doing to the automobile industry:

    “Worse for Tesla, the $7,500 rebate will continue to apply in full to a tidal wave of electric cars about to hit the U.S. market. This onslaught?coming from Mercedes, VW, BMW , Volvo, Porsche, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, you name it?is the fruit of an estimated $300 billion in capital the industry has committed to building money-losing electric cars.

    A report out last month from McKinsey tells the story: These cars cost an average of $12,000 more to produce than they can fetch in the marketplace. The role of regulation in causing this pileup “cannot be overstated,” the report adds”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/tr…..554830200?

    1. Imagine you’re a legitimate innovator like Tesla trying to compete with gasoline powered automobiles–and the government comes along and mandates that the major manufacturers need to have an average fleet mpg rating that’s so high, it turns them into your direct competitors as they’re compelled to sink $300 billion into producing money losing vehicles they wouldn’t be building if it weren’t for the mandates.

      I don’t suppose it’s ironic that the government ends up destroying the very innovation it’s trying to encourage with its mandates–because “ironic” is supposed to imply “unexpected” and I thoroughly expected the government to shoot itself in the foot.

      It’s the same thing with California and other states mandating carbon free electricity by such and such a year. The most cost effective and legitimately profitable green technologies are being undermined by these mandates by drawing in money losing competitors who wouldn’t be “competing” with the legitimate innovators if it weren’t for the mandates. IF IF IF global warming is a legitimate threat, we’ll only develop effective strategies to fight it in spite of these government mandates–not because of them. Unprofitable businesses are not the solution to climate change.

      1. Imagine you’re a legitimate innovator like Tesla . . .

        Yeah, here’s Tesla’s problem though – Musk tried to do too much at once. Tesla isn’t just making new electric cars, its simultaneously taking on the burden of rolling out new nation-wide support infrastructure *and* sales infrastructure.

        They’re not failing because of this new government mandate. They’re going to fail because they were slowed down in taking over that market-space by trying to simultaneously do so much unrelated to making cars.

        In any case, what’s happening is called ‘failblazing’ – history is littered with the corpses of companies that were the first and then were overtaken by an upstart that ran up the new road they had laboriously created.

        1. “They’re going to fail because they were slowed down in taking over that market-space by trying to simultaneously do so much unrelated to making cars.”

          Even IF IF IF what you’re saying is true, Tesla’s problems were exacerbated dramatically by government fuel efficiency mandates (especially in California) that effectively required competing auto makers to invest $300 billion in technology to compete with Tesla that they wouldn’t have invested otherwise–because doing so is unprofitable.

          The point is that the same dynamic is at play with state mandates that require that so much electricity be generated by renewable means by a certain year. Off the top of my head, geothermal heat pumps were already cost competitive compared to everything but just using natural gas–and that isn’t even a supplier side innovation. It’s consumer driven.

          And that’s just one example!

          If the state governments are forcing electricity suppliers to invest heavily in things like solar, that are not cost competitive relative to another green technology like geothermal heat pumps, then they’re not doing the environment any favors. Whatever the technological solutions are to global warming, they will not come from using government mandates to favor less cost effective solutions at the expense of more cost effective solutions.

  10. Hmmmm…. waste handling, a government boondoggle and a guy named Salvo Vitale. Is the Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club involved?

  11. The Maryland legislature is involved?

    Follow the Benjamins, Baby.

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  13. I’ve read the bill and I can’t see what part “creates jobs, fights climate change, and makes a difference.”

    Seems all it does it throw money in various directions, assuming someone else will take that money and do the things

  14. I’ve read the bill and I don’t see what part “creates jobs, fights climate change, and makes a difference.”

    Seems all it does it throw money around hoping someone else will do the things

  15. WTF is “an environmental justice perspective”?

  16. But what else are we going to do with Pughes children’s books?

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