Technically speaking gasification is a “thermo-chemical process in which carbonaceous feedstocks such as coal, petro-coke, or biomass are converted into a gas consisting of hydrogen and carbon monoxide under oxygen depleted, high pressure high-heat, and/or steam conditions,” but the reality is it is a process by which almost any waste product can be turned into electricity or fuel. You read that correctly, nearly any waste product. That means that trash that gets sent to landfills (which catch fire often enough that there is a company called Landfill Fire Control Inc, hog waste that sits in lagoons and could potentially contaminate our water supply, sawdust from lumber mills, used tires, and almost anything else you can think of can be turned into diesel fuel. The real question behind this alchemy that you should be asking yourself, assuming you believe the science, is this technology commercially viable and if so what could that mean for our economy?
The answer to the first part is yes, though not well known gasification has been around since the 1800’s and has been considered commercially viable as a refining process for over 50 years. The answer to the second part is nearly immeasurable because in order to full take advantage of the available feedstock you would have to build small distributed gasification plants onsite. That would mean that farmers would get paid for their animal waste, lumber mills for their saw dust, and landfills for their trash onsite.
Theoretically speaking we should never cap another landfill ever and neighborhoods should be able to pool their trash in order to produce their own electricity.