NEWS RELEASE                                                                                        SEPTEMBER 2016

Yes, Landfill Gas Engines Will Produce More Poison Ivy but also More Tomatoes

A New York Times article warns of the impending growth of poison ivy.  Yes, but this fertilization effect of CO2 has been put to good use by thousands of greenhouses around the world.  GE, Cummins and other engine manufacturers are actively pursuing CHP projects which provide greenhouses with electricity, heat, light and CO2. Is it better to increase the production of tomatoes or retard the growth of poison ivy?

The Southcoast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) struggled with this question in the recent analysis of the 1110.2 biogas emission amendment. The question is whether landfill gas engines would be a better choice than just flaring.  The Beverly Hills estate owner who can easily buy whatever tomatoes are desired but is struggling to keep poison ivy under control will have a completely different value judgment than a starving child in Sudan.  Should SCAQMD prioritize the desires of its residents above those of the starving people in the world? The answer is “Yes.”  But this does not mean that every government in the world should reflect the values of SCAQMD residents.

There is a broader implication which greatly affects the market for reciprocating engines. These engines contribute to the increase of CO2 in the world.  A recent study by a number of collaborating universities now supports the long held theory that the earth is growing greener.  Other studies have estimated that the increase in crop value is in the $billions and possibly even the $trillions. Many engines are being purchased by developing countries to provide critical power and, in turn, save lives and increase the welfare of the residents.

Decisions about the environmental impacts of these initiatives are being made on a simplistic basis.  Engine manufacturers should support a more complex analysis which better represents the true desires of citizens. The three key analysis elements are (1) quality of life, (2) tribal values and (3) discounted future.  The evaluation should not be based on the standard life quantity guide but on life quality. The highest honor gold medal goes to the soldiers who sacrificed decades of life quantity for one heroic life quality moment. 

The tribal value question is put to rest by the fact that no government provides more than a tiny fraction of a percent of GDP for foreign aid. The SCAQMD biogas analysis reflects the values of the district.  It points out that the CO2 from flaring and the biogas engine are the same but that organic emissions could be higher with the engine option.  Since the SCAQMD residents are the ones primarily impacted by the organic emissions, there is a tribal consideration which is contrasted to the CO2 which is global.

The analysis further points out that the potential lost electricity with the flaring is not consequential because the electricity furnished in the district is efficient and green. By contrast, the starving Sudanese child lives in a district without any electricity. The potential to convert flared gas into electricity has enormous benefits to the child and other residents of the district.

The third element is the discount rate for future values. The parents of the Sudanese child and the wealthy grandfather setting up trusts are discounting future values at greatly different rates.  The value of one more tomato today vs. one 50 years from now to the wealthy grandchild and the Sudanese child is very different. This discount rate is at the heart of the controversy between the Chinese government and international environmentalists. China has a program which will convert large amounts of coal to clean gas. Sinopec is building a $20 billion pipeline to distribute this gas throughout China. Many engines will be required to drive the thousands of compressors in the pipeline. The gas will replace solid fuels burned in many residences. China believes that this cheap gas supply will result in eliminating the severe smog problem. The health of Chinese citizens today is being prioritized over worldwide health consequences fifty years from now.

There is no simplistic answer in choosing between poison ivy and tomatoes. The world deserves the more complex analysis explained at Sustainability Universal Rating System.

Details on the technical, commercial, and application information on the use of engines for greenhouses, pipelines, compressors, data centers and wastewater plants is available through a service described at GTRE Decisions.

The markets, regulations and competitive information is in a program described at 59EI Gas Turbine and Combined Cycle Supplier Program