Even if I could wave my magic wand and with one wish eliminate the proposed tire burner in White Deer from its proposed existence, I would not do so.
I would wave my wand and create an enchanted tire-derived fuel (TDF) facility that magically creates 100 percent safe energy from the thousands of tons of trashed tires that need to be disposed of every year. This magic incinerator would have zero chance of harming the young lungs of White Deer school children, emit the scent of sunshine, and never catch on fire and burn uncontrolled for days like the other TDF facilities that have been built and failed in this country.
I am in love with the idea of creating energy from a resource as abundant and potent as used tires. Burning tires sounds much better than ripping apart the beautiful mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia to extract coal, and it sounds much better than destroying Pennsylvania’s northern forests and aquifers with fracking.
In my TDF facility the accountability and reputation and history of the responsible companies would be transparent, reassuring, and locally rooted. When I learn the company will be responsible for reporting their own emissions data to DEP, I won’t have to decide whether or not I trust them. It will be in their best interest to tell the truth and maintain a perfectly operating facility. All of the local, wellpaid employees make sure the plant stays at peak efficiency and production.
Unfortunately, my magic wand is harder to use than I expected, and I don’t think I’ll be making these changes to the tire burner anytime soon. I think it remains a danger to the communities around it, mostly because the reputation of the company-behind-the-company that wants to build it is far from wholesome. I don’t believe they care about “clean” energy or the health of our region. I believe they care about one thing: profit. If the statistics show that the average tire burner operates for about five years before it degrades and becomes a safety hazard, but they can turn a profit in three years, that is good enough for them. When we are left cleaning up the mess they will be long gone.
Although I still love the idea of using waste to make energy, and I believe it is an idea that will gain more and more traction (so to speak) as fossil fuels peak, I do not believe that we have to accept this particular sketchy facility in our community. I think we have a responsibility to each other to reject it and demand better.