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November 26, 2007


Mark Bucher

I am not certain we all agree that recycling is a good idea.

Recycling is actually a poor use of resources when, as is often the case, it costs more to recycle than the recycled product is worth. That is why the government has to step in and require recycling. If recycling made economic sense, companies would be falling all over themselves for the right to pick up our recyclables, or even paying us for the privilege.

The same principle applies to solar - the economics do not make sense yet. That is why the government is subsidizing the installation of solar equipment.

And with respect to global warming - it is all a waste of money. Even if the planet is warming, which has not yet been established, the popular belief that man is powerful enough to do something about it is really silly.

I do agree that it is probably better to spend money on solar panels than on global warming research, because at least with solar panels you have something other than a report of little to no practical value when you are done!

Adam D. Probolsky

Good points Mark.

As one of your Orange County Waste Management Commissioners I'd suggest you add landfill costs into the mix and you will find that in the broad scheme of waste economies, recycling makes more sense. Although you are correct, it does not pencil out today. However, as our landfills get full and the cost of disposing of trash increases, we will all be thankful for recycling programs.

Mark Bucher

"The landfills" will never be full - we will simply have to go further for them, which increases the cost, and eventually it will be more economical to recycle than to throw away. At that point the cost of throwing away might exceed the cost of recycling, which is when companies will be falling all overthemselves to get our recyclables.

I remember hearing as a gradeschooler that we were going to run out of space to put our trash. I even did a speech on it - good little student that I was.

You're starting to sound like a liberal on this one Adam!

Adam D. Probolsky

I think you actually make my point.

Admittedly I may have jumped the gun on this issue, but yes, at some point the cost becomes prohibitive then there will be that much more of an economic incentive to recycle.

interestingly enough

I don't think solar panels are yet a sound financial investment of cost/return. Nice to see a public agency using their tax collections to go solar, though.

Any estimate on the costs/return for IRWD, Adam?

Adam D. Probolsky

Its a pretty long payback but they have a 24 year life span so it works if you have the upfront capital. Click through to the IRWD press release for full details.

Mark Bucher

The press release actually helps point out the problem:

The cost is $1.4 million, with a $243,000 rebate from Edison (which is really just some other rate payer's money, but we'll give it to you), so the cost is about $1.2 million. It pays for itself in 12 years, so the district is saving $100,000 per year. However, the panels have a life of 24 years, so they are going down in value by $50,000 per year, so the district is actually only saving $50,000 per year. That means the district spent $1.4 million dollars of our taxpayer money to save $50,000 per year. If they had just put that money in the bank at 5% interest, they could have made $70,000 per year and we (the taxpayer's) would be $20,000 per year ahead.

Mark Bucher

But - it is still better than 5 scientists!



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