Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cows To Offset Coal Greenhouse Gases

The biggest coal burner in the U.S. thinks it has come up with a cheap way to start fixing its global-warming problem: cow dung.

In a deal to be announced today, the utility has agreed to pay a middleman to put plastic tarps over lagoons holding rotting livestock waste on farms. Decomposing manure produces methane -- a greenhouse gas that, ton for ton, is 21 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, scientists say.

Methane is an attractive early target because it generates a big environmental bang for the buck. The methane produced by the manure of a typical 1,330-pound cow translates into about five tons of CO2 per year. That is about the same amount generated annually by a typical U.S. car, one getting 20 miles per gallon and traveling 12,000 miles per year.
One cow = one car, wow. When I looked into this previously, the data I used put the amount of emissions per cow at 2 tons. Not sure why the big discrepancy. And I am not sure if this takes into account methane emissions via cow burps and farts either.
The AEP project, which is set to include about 200 farms, would be far bigger than any other effort to turn cow dung to carbon credits in the U.S. It is contracting to buy at least 600,000 CO2 credits annually. AEP won't say what it has agreed to pay for each methane-capture credit. But such credits, which are being sold elsewhere in the world as a result of the Kyoto Protocol, typically go for between $5 and $8 per so-called CO2-equivalent ton.
Eliminating methane emissions from cow manure is much cheaper than the estimated $60/ton it costs to capture the carbon from a coal fired power plant. I am all for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in the cheapest way possible, but I worry about the potential for gaming of the system. As long as the amount of methane is actually sequestered as advertised, then I think this makes sense.

Of course I am deeply disappointed that they aren't taking advantage of my new favorite patent.

via Wall Street Journal

Update: Green Car Congress reports that if all the energy stored in Danish manure could be extracted, it could, according to the Danish Board of Technology, supply 25% of the energy required by the Danish transport sector.

1 comment:

MensaRefugee said...

*Puts on Freudian hat*
"Zit obsession with ze cows proves my thoery zat you were not loved as ze infant."

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