A generation ago, waste-to-energy was a pretty attractive option if it meant less reliance on costly solid waste landfills to receive trash and coal-fired power plants to generate electricity. So it made sense not only to permit a facility like Baltimore’s Wheelabrator incinerator but to subsidize it.
Times have changed.
As The Sun’s Scott Dance reports in the second in his series of articles about questions surrounding Maryland’s green energy policies, the view of the South Baltimore trash-burning facility near Russell Street and Interstate 95 is quite different. Not only is there growing opposition from neighbors because of the toxic substances that pour out of its smokestack, but the notion that a trash incinerator ought to be subsidized by ratepayers — to the tune of $10 million over the last six years alone — seems counter-productive.
In 1985, when BRESCO first came on line, the prospects for renewable energy seemed limited. Solar power was mostly a novelty (thin-film photovoltaic cells hadn’t even been invented yet), and half the world’s wind power was generated at one facility: Altamont Pass in Northern California. It was also a peak year for U.S. coal consumption with nearly 60 percent of power generated by coal, a number that’s fallen below 40 percent today.