The natural gas derived from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and other urban and agricultural residue streams, could provide 4%-10% of the current US demand for natural gas, says the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, which educates Congress on energy efficiency and renewable energy policy.
These feedstocks are in all 50 states and if fully developed, would create an estimated 250,000 jobs.
Unlike natural gas fracking, which pollutes the air and groundwater, biogas prevents methane emissions and has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 148 million tons per year - equivalent to taking 29 million cars off the road.
This biogas, when upgraded to pipeline quality, can be used in many different applications - from space heating and cooking, to electric power production, to transportation fuel.
It can be shipped through the existing, extensive natural gas pipeline grid.
Methane is the largest source of GHG gases in the US after carbon and is 21 times more potent. Much of it is emitted from landfills, livestock manure management, and sewage. Capturing it and converting it to useful energy can address multiple economic, energy, environmental and climate concerns.
A recent EPA report finds that emissions from landfills have declined 16.2% since 1990 because of increased capture and combustion of the methane. But emissions from manure management and sewage have risen 64% and 2.5%, respectively. These three sectors produce about 2.6% of total U.S. GHG emissions.
Waste Management owns or operates 131 landfill gas-to-energy facilities across North America, producing enough electricity to power nearly 475,000 homes.
Biogas is a natural byproduct of wastewater treatment and even be captured to power turbines.
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