For many years, opposition to the use of municipal solid waste (MSW) as an energy resource has been nearly universal among activists and regulators. This opposition has been largely based on bad experiences with traditional garbage incineration facilities, which are associated with high levels of toxic emissions, as well as the perception that using MSW for energy will compete with recycling efforts. But growing climate, energy, and environmental concerns, coupled with technological developments and regulatory changes, have ignited new interest in MSW as an energy source with the potential to provide renewable energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the need for landfill space. If the 254.1 million tons of MSW generated in 2007 had been diverted to produce electricity, the United States could have replaced approximately 3 to 6 percent of the electricity used in that year, depending on conversion efficiency. Alternatively, Fulcrum BioEnergy estimates that diverting all landfill waste to ethanol production could yield up to 21 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually, which could make a significant dent in annual United States gasoline consumption of 142 billion gallons.
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