GOOD

Turning Manure Into Energy

Manure may be of one the stinkiest pollution problems, but it has a green lining: renewable energy. A handful of California dairy farmers have...


Manure may be of one the stinkiest pollution problems, but it has a green lining: renewable energy.A handful of California dairy farmers have begun using methane gas from their cows' waste to generate electricity, the Los Angeles Times reports. But just as the idea is starting to catch on, state regulators are refusing to issue permits for "dairy digester" systems because they say the technology creates its own pollution, nitrogen oxides."The board has been clear that when we're faced with these sorts of trade-offs between reducing greenhouse gases and reducing NOx, we're going to choose NOx," said Dave Warner, director of permit services for the San Joaquin Valley air quality district. His office has blocked some farms from switching on their digester machines.Certainly, the potential is there. Central California is home to nearly 1.6 million dairy cows that produce up to 192 million pounds of manure a day. "California has about four times as much potential for emission reductions and energy generation as the next-largest dairy state," an EPA official told the paper. "I know the regulations are much more strict in California. But there's so much potential there."In fact, the idea has caught on in Europe, where more than 8,000 biogas operations are up and running. In the United States, though, the concept has been slower to catch on, in part because government subsidies are not as readily available. Only about 150 digesters are operating on American farms, including 19 in Wisconsin, 18 in Pennsylvania and 16 in California.The current standoff between farmers and regulators isn't making things easier.The L.A. Times reports that farmer John Fiscalini installed a $4 million digester system when regulators warned him that he needed to fight pollution emitted by his 530-acre farm and cheese factory in Modesto, Calif. Now, several times a day a generator flushes tons of manure out of his barns, and converts the methane into electricity.But to comply with air standards, he had to invest hundreds of thousands more into his equipment."I figured I might as well try to do this now and do some good," Fiscalini recalled. Now, he says: "I wonder, sometimes, why I ever thought this was a good idea."But another farmer says the air regulators aren't completely off base. Dairy farmer Ron Koetsier installed a digester in 2003, but shut it down five years later when he was told it violated local NOx emission standards. The cost of upgrading his system would have been too high: $100,000 in new parts plus $50,000 a year in maintenance fees."It doesn't make financial sense for me keep doing this. I don't see how they can turn methane gas into electricity in California, given these rules," he said. But he added: "They have a point. I want clean air."E.B. Solomont, a regular contributor to the Mother Nature Network, writes from New York.Related Articles on Mother Nature Network: Photo by Charlie Litchfield/AP Photo
Articles
via International Monetary Fund / Flickr and Streetsblog Denver / Flickr

Seventeen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made a dramatic speech Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In her address, she called for a public and private sector divestment from fossil fuel companies

"Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don't want these things done by 2050, or 2030 or even 2021 — we want this done now," she said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mocked the teenager on Thursday during a press briefing in Davos.

Keep Reading
The Planet

Even though marathon running is on the decline, half a million people signed up to participate in the 2020 London Marathon. It seems wild that someone would voluntarily sign up to run 26.2 miles, but those half a million people might actually be on to something. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running a marathon can help reverse signs of aging.

Researchers at Barts and University College London looked at 138 first-time marathon runners between the ages of 21 and 69. "We wanted to look at novice athletes. We didn't include people who said they ran for more than two hours a week," Dr. Charlotte Manisty, the study's senior author and cardiologist at University College London, said per CNN.

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading
Communities