.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cattle and the Environment: A Source of Energy?

As the world's demand for alternative energy sources increase, there is potential "right under our noses!" Yes, from the world of animals and from their excrement.....Manure, which produces methane, can potentially become a great resource.

Cattle, which have been rudely and wrongly accused of having a negative impact on the environment, are a wonderful and powerful resource. Cattle work with the environment!

There are two reasons for pursuing the development of methane energy: 1) methane is plentiful, and 2) energy demands are only going to increase.

So, rather than look at methane production as a problem, it might well be part of the solution!

Methane is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gasses that can be attributed to man’s activity. Carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to contribute 75% to global warming effects. Methane is a distant second at 15%, and this relatively small number even accounts for the fact that methane gas is twenty times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Research indicates that if you must use some other carbon source for energy, you still generate carbon dioxide as well as release the wasted methane from the manure pile. The result in the end has the effect of trapping this methane and burning it, which converts one greenhouse gas into another greenhouse gas (but reduces the greenhouse effect of the gas by perhaps twenty times).

There is plenty of energy potential in using manure. Of the millions of tons of methane that is generated each year, about one/fourth comes from domestic animals. While it would be inconvenient to collect the gas generated by enteric fermentation, it would certainly be feasible to collect and use the methane generated each year from the anaerobic fermentation of domestic animal manure.

There are companies, eg: S.C. Johnson and BMW, that are already using methane from landfill sites to generate power for their plants. The next step is to encourage the development and construction of digesters and processors, using animal manure. What a turn-around.....the cow has always been one of nature's greatest and most efficient recyclers. Like the buffalo, it is efficient and works in concert WITH nature -- a fact that has been quite overlooked by many who do not understand the facts -- and now it might well provide the world with a feasible, reliable, renewable resource.

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