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USDA Shows Support for 11,000 More Energy-from-Waste Plants

The U.S. dairy industry is a major producer of methane gas, mostly due to its cows and the waste they produce. However, biogas plants (such as the one pictured) are taking that waste and turning it in

The United States Department of Agriculture has released a road map detailing the benefits installing 11,000 new anaerobic digestion plants across the U.S. that could be used to produce energy or transport fuels.

The biogas-using plants would have major positive effects in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

The USDA cited President Barack Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan and its call for the department to develop a comprehensive solution to combat climate change and promote the use of energy-from-waste techniques. This, in turn, would help farms, energy companies, and the U.S. biogas industry.

The agency also believes implementation of these plants is an important step toward America’s energy independence. Specifically, the USDA and the administration want to target methane emissions.

“Experts agree that any comprehensive plan to confront climate change must address methane as well as carbon emissions,” a USDA Fact Sheet on the topic reads. “Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted in the United States from human activities. Pound for pound, the impact of methane on climate change is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.”

Biogas contains around 50-70 percent methane, and the gas can be harnessed and used as an energy source.

The USDA believes there “tremendous growth” opportunities for biogas and this could be realized in the form of the plant construction.

“If fully realized,” the USDA writes, “these biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more than 3 million American homes and reduce methane emissions equivalent to 4 to 54 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the annual emissions of between 800,000 and 11 million passenger vehicles.”

With strong governmental support, there are plenty opportunities to invest in energy-from-waste.

“To help overcome financial barriers to the widespread investment in biogas systems,” they explain, “USDA will lead efforts to improve the collection and analysis of industry financial and technical data needed to track the performance of anaerobic digesters, evaluate current loan and grant programs for opportunities to broaden the financing options available for biogas systems, and review Federal procurement guidelines to ensure that products of biogas systems are eligible for and promoted by applicable government procurement programs.”

The Dairy Industry is already invested in energy-to-waste initiatives, since it is a large producer of methane. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already identified 2,600 potential sits for anaerobic digesters.

For the dairy industry alone, the estimated amount of savings by maximizing waste for positive usage is $3 billion.

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