Agencies pushing on-farm biogas recovery

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – A new interagency agreement promoting renewable energy generation and slashing greenhouse gas emissions (G.G.E.s) from livestock operations was recently announced by Lisa Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) administrator, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The agreement builds upon the work of the AgStar program, a joint E.P.A.-U.S.D.A. effort that helps livestock producers reduce methane emissions from their operations.

“We want to seize every opportunity to confront climate change and move into the clean economy of the future,” Ms. Jackson said. “This is a smart way to transform what would be a harmful greenhouse pollutant into a source of renewable energy -- and make a profit for American farmers. “We have the technology and the expertise, all we need now is to act. The AgStar program brings real benefits to our air and creates new opportunities for our farming community.”

“The farms and ranches that dot our countryside can contribute greatly to addressing America’s long-term energy challenges and the partnership we are announcing today will not only help generate renewable energy, but provide new income opportunities for farmers and ranchers,” added Mr. Vilsack.

Over the next five years, E.P.A.’s and U.S.D.A.’s enhanced collaboration will provide up to $3.9 million to help farms overcome obstacles preventing them from recovering and using biogas. The collaboration will expand technical assistance efforts, improve technical standards and guidance for the construction and evaluation of biogas recovery systems, and expand outreach to livestock producers and assist them with pre-feasibility studies.

Biogas is composed primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Biogas emitted from manure management systems, called digesters, can be collected and used to produce electricity, heat or hot water. Due, in large part, to AgStar’s efforts, about 150 on-farm manure digesters are now operating at livestock facilities across the U.S.

E.P.A. estimates there are approximately 8,000 farms throughout the U.S. that are good candidates for capturing and using biogas. If all 8,000 farms implemented biogas systems, methane emissions would be reduced by more than 34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, roughly equal to the annual emissions from 6.5 million passenger vehicles. In addition, these projects could generate more than 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy.

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