Backfire – Michigan Says Burning Tires is a Renewable Energy Source


Burning tires – That’s totally renewable energy, right?
Burning tires – That’s totally renewable energy, right?

“Tire burning” and “Renewable Energy” doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me, especially considering that tires are made from synthetic rubber, which comes from petroleum, which is NOT a “renewable” resource.

Please tell me, then, what fuzzy commodities calculator Michigan legislators are using to come up with House Bill 5205? Sponsored by Republican (no way!) Aric Nesbitt, HB 5205 aims to “redefine” renewable energy sources to help the state reach a renewable energy mix of 10% by 2015. One of those new “renewable” source would be solid waste, including tires.

Now, if USS Enterprise Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott “cannot change the laws of physics,” 250 years from now, how is it that Michigan Republican Representative Aric Nesbitt can change “the scientific definition of renewable energy?” Well, he can’t, but why not? Well, tires come from rubber, rubber comes from petroleum, petroleum comes from dinosaurs. So, tires come from dinosaurs. If dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct millions of years ago, we could call tires a renewable energy source, couldn’t we?

Really, HB 5205 “is nothing more than a dangerous plan to pollute [the] air, land, and water,” according to Lisa Wozniak, Executive Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. I understand that we shouldn’t just let them sit in landfills, citing such reasons as mosquito hazards and soil contamination, not to mention spontaneous combustion. This is why we like tire recycling programs, turning used tires into new ground surfacing material or pallets, even to boost lithium-ion battery performance, for example. Coming back to combustion, however, HG 5205 is totally the wrong way to go.

For example, according to a recent report covering tire burning in California, I gleaned some interesting facts. Tires have about the same energy as high-grade coal, and is typically burned in the same plants that burn coal. As such, they have pretty much the same greenhouse gas emissions profile as coal. The four concrete plants, burning tires with coal and coke, generated over 5,000 tons of NOx (nitrous oxides), 500 tons of SOx (sulfur oxides), 3,500 tons of CO (carbon monoxide), 226 tons of PM10 (particulate matter under 10 µm), and 129 tons of PM2.5 (particulate matter under 2.5 µm). There are also a number of toxic compounds released in conjunction with tire burning, including Acetaldehyde, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Chloride, Metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Hexavalent Chromium, Dioxins, and Furans.

So, just to keep things straight:

  1. Burning Tires – NOT a renewable energy source!

  2. Burning Tires – Even more wonderful than coal!

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