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Sweden Shows Us How Sustainability is DONE

The Swedes just keep finding ways to make us look bad, climate-changingly speaking. The small Swedish city of Kristianstad has effectively turned its Nordic back on fossil fuels. In a model that is almost comically sane, efficient, and environmentally-friendly, the city’s source of energy is waste, including (courtesy of the NYTimes) “potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines.” The energy plants process the waste to form biogas, which is burned to create energy. This process can also be used on the gases released by landfills, which would otherwise fill our atmosphere. This all adds up to independence from fossil fuels as well as fewer emissions.

The heat from the biogas is dispersed through the city through a series of pipes in an underground grid. This method, called district heating, is far more efficient than independently heating one house at a time. Areas outside Kristianstad’s grid burn wood in the form of small pellets, which is pretty adorable because they look like gerbil food. But they’re quite effective; you can learn more about efficiency of wood pellets, if you’re so inclined.

That’s all well and good, right, but what about the financial strain of such a seemingly utopian arrangement? Well, farms and plants actually pay to have waste removed from their facilities, so it’s a money maker as well. This is pretty much the equivalent of your annoyingly perfect cousin that you want to hate, but can’t because she’s so nice.

So why the hee-haw aren’t we doing this here in the US? Well, we are”¦a little bit. There are currently 151 biogas processors here, most of which only handle manure, and not the laughably plentiful fuel used by Kristianstadians. One of the biggest hindrances to implementing this in the US is the prohibitive start-up costs. It’s funny because those costs would be a non-issue if our government would subsidize or finance such ventures. But, wonder of wonders, it doesn’t.

Which makes sense, really. Why would the US government want to spend taxpayer money on a system that is economically advantageous, environmentally-friendly and completely renewable and sustainable? I dunno, maybe the same reason they don’t tax carbon emissions, unlike our nauseatingly superior Nordic cousins have done since 1991. (Yes, that’s nineteen NINETY-ONE)

Despite a lack of federal enthusiasm for a similar initiative in the US, California is leading the charge in exploring such ventures in the Sunshine State. So, maybe there’s hope for us yet.

In the meantime, check out the fun info-graphics on the Times article, as they’ll make you feel hopeful about the future but bad about yourself at the same time.

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