A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org



Is California giving its methane digesters too much credit?

From TheCounter.org
May 2022

Every year, California dairy farms emit hundreds of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, which gets released when livestock operations pool manure in open-air lagoons. To put a lid on these emissions, the state is lavishing the industry with lucrative subsidies to capture methane before it escapes into the atmosphere.

cow manure lagoons
Graphic by Alex Hinton | Source Images: iStock

California is treating factory farm gas systems at dairy farms like they are devices that suck carbon from the air.

Every year, California dairy farms emit hundreds of thousands of tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane, which gets released when livestock operations pool manure in open-air lagoons. To put a lid on these emissions, the state is lavishing the industry with lucrative subsidies to capture methane before it escapes into the atmosphere. Such efforts are currently on track to prevent 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, a standard unit for measuring greenhouse gas emissions, from being emitted annually by the end of this year. Itís an essential part of the Golden Stateís plan to shrink methane emissions by 40 percent of 2013 levels by the end of the decade.

California has sector-specific targets for emissions reductions, and cuts at dairy farms are attributed to the livestock sector. Curiously, however, the state is simultaneously crediting many of those same emissions reductions to its transportation fuel sector ó and, some argue, dramatically overstating its progress in that sector as a result.

enslaved Cows

Thatís because much of the methane captured at dairy farms is converted into natural gas, which is then added to the stateís fuel supply. Californiaís peculiar emissions accounting techniques dictate that, whenever a dairy farm captures methane from manure and converts it to natural gas, the state actually considers that fuel production process to be carbon-negative. In essence, through the simple act of adding a new source of natural gas to the stateís fuel supply, California claims to have both reduced livestock emissions and lowered the carbon intensity of its transportation fuels.

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