By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
The cows are fighting back!
After hearing that their methane emissions (of the personal variety) were contributing to greenhouse gas pollution, they decided to prove that they could take care of their own biowaste, thank you very much. So a group of Holsteins (dairy cows, smarter than their beefy cousins) rallied round the stock tank, pondered their poop problem and created the first biomethane produced from cow manure. Mooing over their sustainable invention, they chugged back chocolate shakes, poured the biomethane into a diesel truck and headed out to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., to show off.
The outline for the next Wallace and Grommit movie, Revenge of the Methane-Emitting Bovines?
No, actually, it’s true, with a few twists.
Today, the first cow-powered truck really is appearing at the World Ag Expo, having been converted to operate on bioemethane produce from cow patties at Hilarides Dairy. The bovs had a little help developing this forward-thinking innovation. Their owner Rob Hilarides, the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the Sustainable Conservation all worked on the project (along with many others).
Using cow manure to fuel trucks reduces greenhouse gases two ways: It cuts down on the methane released by manure and the air pollution from conventional diesel engines.
Not to mention that there’s no foreign dependency involved, since US cows produce manure that’s so local you can, well, smell it.
Says Rob Hilarides, owner of Hilarides Dairy in Lindsay, Calif., in a statement: “For us it made sense to invest in this technology. Now we can utilize the dairy’s potential to power our trucks, in addition to generating electricity for our operations. This will significantly reduce our energy costs and give us some protection from volatile energy prices.”
Michael Marsh, Chief Executive Officer of Western United Dairymen, praised Hilarides as a dairyman “who cares for the environment and is willing to take a financial risk on a new approach to providing transportation fuel.”
“In California, the manure is plentiful,” said Allen Dusault, the Sustainable Conservation’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture. “The technology is here and public-private partnerships can make this work.”
“Biomethane is the only vehicle fuel that is carbon negative. The production process prevents greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere, and the resulting fuel is clean burning.”
The group estimates that US dairy cows could power about 1 million vehicles this way. In essence, they could power the way to get their milk to market.
“Across the nation, the benefit to the climate could be as great as taking 16 million cars off the road,” Dusault said.
(Read more about cow power at the Sustainable Conservation website. If you want to know more about how biomethane is produced, a process that involves flushing the cow manure into “lagoons” and converting it to biogas using a “digester”, see the report, Biomethane from Dairy Waste.)
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