Clean Trash? Yes, When It Becomes Electricity

I was pleased to see that a new kind of trash train may be comin' ("Pardon me, boy, is that a trash-combustion choo-choo," Science & Technology, Dec. 21), but your article was around the bend in suggesting that trash-burning steam engines are a new technology. In fact, there are 142 power plants in the U. S., burning 32 million tons of trash (16% of U. S. trash) and producing 17 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. There are also 14 plants that turn trash into fuel pellets for use in boilers of all types. Electricity from trash is surprisingly cheap, 2 to 8 per kilowatt hour. And yes, we can burn trash more cleanly than coal. We are even cleaner than most oil-fired power plants. With new fluidized-bed boilers under construction, we may soon give natural gas some competition as the cleanest, "greenest" fuel.

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