7.22.2004 | Smart Energy Policy... from Business?

Normally, you'd expect environmental reforms to come from laws. The Clean Air and Clean Water acts of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s especially come to mind. But what about when business finds a way to serve the environment because it actually coincides with their need to make a profit? One such example is the Greenville, S.C. BMW plant, which has become a plant in more ways than one. Not only does it make cars, but it also powers its own electricity using escaping Methane gas from a nearby landfill.

It may not sound environmentally friendly because of the source of the fuel, but in fact using Methane gas to generate electricity helps the environment by reducing emissions of a potent greenhouse gas. Escaping gas that comes from the decomposing trash in landfills usually ends up in the atmosphere, where it can be as much as 23 times more effective than the well-known greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at trapping heat from the sun's rays, accelerating global climate change. Burning the Methane, on the other hand, produces minimal carbon dioxide emissions, creating a net positive effect for the environment.

My question is: if this method of producing electricity is good enough for businesses, why isn't it good enough for our government? The last president to make a commitment to renewable energy was Jimmy Carter, and that was because we found ourselves in the middle of an energy crisis. Today we're dealing with record gas prices, and the only renewable energy proposal on the table -- which may not be as renewable as it sounds -- is hydrogen-powered cars. The rest of the current administration's energy policy focuses on creating more production of current energy sources.

We never got anywhere by sticking to the status quo. Government can be a positive force in society to achieve great things, not the least of which was our journey to the moon and the vast progress we've made in space exploration since then. As long as we're sending satellites to kingdom come, why can't we create more innovative energy sources like these here at home? Let's just hope this example out of South Carolina will be followed, and that it will encourage the government -- local, state, and federal -- to take a look at how it can promote more common-sense solutions like these.

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