Better stewardship of carbon resources
Look around you. You are surrounded by carbon, which is the primary element of our combustion fuels, like coal, fuel oil, gasoline, and natural gas. Much of the carbon you see around you was harvested from plants, trees, or animals to provide for some useful product that enhances the quality of our everyday lives. Unfortunately, many of these products will be buried in landfills as they reach the end of their usefulness to us; while others will be burned and transformed into air emissions and greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, we are drilling and mining deep below the Earth’s surface each day to extract long-ago buried carbon to fuel our homes, cars, and businesses. The practice of extracting this long-ago buried carbon in many cases places a great burden on water resources, and raises additional concerns on environmental impacts to the surrounding area.
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Cavanaugh believes that we all can become much better stewards of these carbon resources. We have millions of tons of accessible carbon right at our fingertips, and a majority of this carbon can be easily transformed into fuels and energy that reuses and recycles this natural resource rather that “disposing” of it through landfilling, air pollution, or injection below ground.
For example, there are over 16,000 permitted municipal wastewater treatment plants in the United States; and about 10% already utilize anaerobic digestion as a part of their treatment processes. Anaerobic digestion is one method of harvesting the carbon from wastes for beneficial use. In this process, bacteria consume the organic carbon and produce methane gas, or biogas. Methane is the primary energy gas we call “natural gas,” and mine for across our globe.
While the stores of fossil fuels, including crude oil and natural gas, are quite large, they are finite. Exploiting the natural stores of these fossil fuels results in negative impacts to our environment, some of which are perceived to be quite substantial. However, converting materials we currently deem to be “wastes” into alternate energy reduces our overall environmental footprint. Converting wastes to energy is infinitely renewable, for as long as we inhabit the Earth.
Cavanaugh aids waste generators, waste managers, and waste processors in determining the optimal means of harvesting the energy value from their organic wastes. Whether municipal wastes, industrial wastes, or agricultural wastes – the opportunity to reduce societal and environmental impacts while improving the bottom line abounds.