US Dairy Industry Signs Onto Roadmap for Biogas

The US dairy industry’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed an agreement this week to help them achieve that.

Large dairy companies contribute 4% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food & Agriculture division of the United Nations.

USDA signed a 3-year agreement with the Innovation Center for US Dairy, which represents the industry.  USDA will develop a "roadmap for biogas," a key technology for converting farm waste to clean energy, which makes fertilizer as a by-product.

The agreement extends their collaboration, which began in 2009, to improve the sustainability of dairy operations.

Also known as anaerobic digesters, the natural gas derived from farm waste, such as manure, along with landfills and wastewater treatment plants could provide 4%-10% of the current US demand for natural gas … without the fracking. 

When upgraded to pipeline quality, biogas can be used in many different applications – from space heating and cooking, to electric power production, to transportation fuel. And it can be shipped through the existing, extensive natural gas pipeline grid. 

Biogas

Methane is the largest source of greenhouse 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.

As of 2009, just 2% of large dairy operations had anaerobic digesters.

In 2008, the industry launched the US Dairy Sustainability Initiative "to accelerate innovation and build public trust in the industry’s commitment to providing consumers with the nutritious products they want in a way that is economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible."

Through the Innovation Center, leaders from 80% of the dairy supply chain – including dairy farmers, coops, associations, processors, manufacturers, and brands – have endorsed this commitment. 

In 2009 they established a goal and Roadmap for the entire value chain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020.

Since then, USDA has awarded about 180 grants and loans to  finance biogas systems and 140 for other kinds of clean energy on farms. 

Read Farms Offer New Market for Renewable Energy.

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