It doesn't mean the sky is falling, but a federal court ruling against the burning of scrap tires as fuel puts a major method of disposing of used tires in jeopardy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled a few months ago against the Environmental Protection Agency's method of regulating the burning of alternative fuels-including tire-derived fuel-at industrial facilities. The court said the EPA should have used a more-stringent section of the Clean Air Act.
The bottom line-scrap tires may no longer be a viable source of fuel for burning, because of requirements under the tougher legislation.
The decision is especially problematic for cement kiln companies. The industry burns as many as 60 million whole tires as fuel, more than any other business.
For now, the EPA has to go back to the drawing board. The agency will conduct the rulemaking process, which could take up to two years. Until that is concluded, the use of TDF is uncertain.
Burning tires for fuel isn't the only method used to dispose of worn-out tires, nor, in the eyes of many environmentalists or ``not in my backyard'' groups, the best. Reducing tires to their basic components, and then recycling that material, is much more green; civil engineering is another favored use.
While there are many methods for eliminating the problem of scrap tires, making those approaches cost-effective has been the major obstacle. Some succeed, others don't. Collectively, though, today they consume more than 85 percent of all tires as they are discarded, and have taken a bite out of the nation's unsightly and dangerous scrap tire piles.
It was only a few decades ago that tire recycling was virtually non-existent, and the nation's scrap tire piles grew and grew. That trend has been reversed, and TDF, which disposes of an enormous amount of dangerous and unsightly tires, is one of the ways it was done.
It needs to be preserved.