A New Facet in Sustainability: Energy Recycling

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Ever since I can remember, the argument for environmentalists have been to move to Solar and Wind power as the only way to save the planet.  Their position is from a green point of view:  that is, if it isn't natural, it isn't an option.  This is fine, and there are a lot of merits to these methods of generating energy, but right now it just isn't enough.  We need something else to bolster our energy needs until these more green technologies can be made more efficient.  And the best move that can be made right now is energy recycling. What's Energy Recycling?  It's the process of using the excess heat created by a process to boil water, create steam, and move a generator.  One excellent example of wasted energy this way would be many cooling towers in Atomic plants.  But that isn't all!  Many factories, refineries, and smelters are major sources of excess heat, and as such could be producing electricity.  Just place a boiler on top of the plant, capture the heat, boil water, create steam, use that steam to move a generator and you are all set!  Now, you may ask where I got this idea in the first place.  Well, I'm guilty of perpetuating an idea of others.  It seems that Europe and Japan has been doing this practice for years, bolstering their grids with additional energy from their factories, refineries, etc.  Heat is not wasted if it's sufficient enough to boil water.  This was reported this morning on my way to work on NPR, by the way.  So why don't we do the same thing?  It's such a simple idea, why haven't the US thought of this before?  Because there are currently State and Civil laws that protect power companies from having to pay retail prices for the power that gets pumped back into the grid from an non-system source.  That, and most older facilities would be subject to new EPA regulations if they made any modifications to their facility.  Now, the other day, I was listening to Sean Hannity on the radio.  Now, this isn't a regular thing for me, as I don't like to get just one side of the story (I find NPR the least biased news source).  But he had an interesting argument for the Republican Party:  Rebuild yourself.  He pointed out 10 items the Republicans could do in order to rebuild the party.  Number 4 was Energy Independence.  What could be more independent than using recycled energy?So, my challenge to Government, both parties actually, is to challenge the protection laws currently in place for energy companies to allow energy recycling.  We could generate almost twice the energy we have now, if we follow Denmark's model (half their energy comes from recycled energy projects), and lower our energy growth needs.  That's the kicker: the need for foreign oil could be lowered as far as overall energy production, and allow more oil to be diverted to transportation (at least for now).  Now, I don't expect it will magically solve our nation's energy needs overnight.  But wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about rolling blackouts?  More energy means cheaper electric manufacturing costs, and cheaper overall bills on the consumer.  Also, those factories that produce a lot of heat in order to produce their product can save even more money as they generate that excess heat into energy savings, or potentially a secondary revenue line.  Those are the benefits, at any case.  Now the hard part needs to be hammered out:  negotiating with power companies and potential power generating sources a fair and sustainable model.  Perhaps they can offer to buy the recycled energy at wholesale costs..  Anyway, that's a fight that will be well worth the effort.