What if I told you that there is a new technological process that could take human waste and turn it into oil and gas to generate power? Or what about instead of using human waste, you could use old computers or used tires or medical waste or even cows infected with mad cow disease? You?d probably think I smoked a few too many on my way to work this morning. But as much as it sounds it, this isn?t something out of some science fiction story. This is a real process called thermal depolymerization. A company called Changing World Technolgies is behind it all.
When I first heard the idea of this, it was over lunch several months ago with some co-workers. The guy who brought it up was the only one who?d ever heard about it and we all thought he was nuts. Or some conspiracy theorist. Being somewhat of a conspiracy theorist myself, I found the idea fascinating. Wow?think of the ramifications. No more dependence on foreign oil. No more solid waste disposal issues, whether it be debating between landfills and incinerators or dealing with the fallout from these methods. No more sewage problems. No more God-awful stench from the pig farms?people and pigs could again live side-by-side. Man, this was sounding better and better. But wait. WHY hadn?t we all heard about this breakthrough technology? Why wasn?t money being invested to bring it to all communities? Why weren?t thermal depolymerization plants popping up everywhere? I guess this is where you could bring in your conspiracy theories, if you wanted: Big business makes too much money off of wars and the oil business. Status quo works just fine for industry?any changes involving the way they get rid of their waste would cost too darned much money. Etc., etc., etc. So I sort of forgot about it for awhile until I stumbled upon an article about it yesterday. The more I read, the more excited I got. It?s not about the conspiracy theories. It?s about getting the word out about this new technology.
I think it?s a true testament to human ingenuity, personally. We can now have all our toys (plastics, big SUVs, farmed meat) and not feel bad about it because it?s ruining the environment. (Ok?maybe some of you out there DON?T feel bad now, and don?t think anything?s ruining the environment, but wouldn?t it feel GOOD to support such a breakthrough human invention? Especially an American invention?) Thermal depolymerization offers a renewable, sustainable energy source. It even offers a way to get rid of bio-hazards such as toxins. It can handle all those nasty dioxins and PCBs. Think what it could do with Anthrax or worse. Did you realize the US generates more than 12 billion tons of agricultural waste each year? Here?s a quote from a great USA Today article on the subject:
That ain’t chicken feed. (Not once the system’s done processing it, anyway.) According to the U.S. Department of Energy, we imported about 3.3 billion barrels of crude oil in 2002.
In other words, if we converted just our agricultural waste to light crude using TDP, we could stop our oil imports?and then some.
Thermal depolymerization breaks any waste down into gases (such as methane, propane, etc.), petroleum, carbon and minerals. It really does sound too good to be true, but when you look at the science behind it, all it?s really doing is speeding up what Mother Earth would do over millions and millions of years. I?m still waiting for someone to tell me why this ISN?T a good idea. In the meantime, I?m going out to buy stock in Changing World Technologies.