Environment Forum

Cow manure to combat global warming?

July 24, 2008

A cow looks out from the barn at Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, Massachusetts in this June 30, 2008 file photoCould cow manure curb global warming?

A study by scientists in Texas reckons that cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and other farm animals excrete enough waste to generate electricity for millions of homes, helping reduce reliance on coal-fired power plants and so cut greenhouse gas emissions released by burning fossil fuels.

Left to decompose naturally, manure emits the powerful greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. If trapped by a devoted workforce (people with an impaired sense of smell encouraged to apply) the gases could used to drive microturbines to generate electricity. That works by the manure being “anaerobically digested” — a process a bit like making compost — to release energy-rich biogas which would be burnt to drive the microturbines.

The calculations, the scientists say they are the first to outline a procedure for quantifying amounts of energy and greenhouse gases linked to national herds, suggest that farm animals in the United States alone could generate about 2.4 percent of U.S. electricity and avert about 3.9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dung is widely burnt in the Third World as a fuel; why not exploit it elsewhere?

The study doesn’t look into the uncertainties about the economics of sucking up manure, transport, building specialised power plants, etc (with oil at almost $130 a barrel, what would you pay for a barrel of manure?) 

So, if you live in the countryside and your eco-minded neighbour tells you sometime in future: “We switched our electricity supplier from coal to get it from the local wind farm” you can go one better and say:

“See Daisy the cow over there in the field? We get ours from her”.

Is there a future for manure?

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Hohum

In WWII farmers drove cars powered by pigshit. Nothing new!

 

I wonder how much money has been spent studying the studies? Since Ram Bux Singh, L John Fry were prevented from breaking through by counter objectives. See EPA AgStar program in business with L. John Fry’s methane Gas Plant. Bill Jewell and all from 1966 to present. L. John Fry was the Spitfire Pilot who is mentioned by Hohum. His hog farm supported a methane gas plant. He is one of the grandfathers of this industry.

Posted by Walter King Foster | Report as abusive
 

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