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US, Mexico Partner on Livestock Waste-to-Fuels Research

Global livestock density, in livestock units/sq km. Source: GLiPHA (Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas).

The University of Georgia (UGA) and Mexico’s livestock industry have formed a new research partnership to share expertise in generating fuels from livestock waste materials. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the partnership will initiate training, internships and exchanges between UGA and a wide array of academics and professionals in Mexico.

Joint training programs and workshops in the partnership will be organized by UGA-Mexican partner universities for students, faculty, government officials and regulatory board officials, as well as livestock industry personnel. Participants will focus on animal waste—using it to grow algae for the production of biodiesel, or anaerobically digesting it to produce methane, for example—and the fuels that can be generated from waste materials.

Livestock production worldwide is growing rapidly, as people are consuming more meat and dairy products each year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.

According to a report published in 2006 by bhe United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent—18 percent—than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

The UGA program is designed to provide Mexico’s agricultural professionals the skills needed to analyze and support sustainable management of resources at the interface of agriculture and the environment.

The program will target technology and business policy relating to integrated waste management that is cost-effective and will provide additional income through co-product generation from waste treatment. In addition, the program will develop and analyze public policy, with a goal of regulatory regimes that improve productivity and competitiveness in the livestock sector.

The project is supported by a Higher Education for Development grant awarded under the USAID Training, Internship, Exchanges and Scholarship (TIES) program.



I applaud these initiatives, but better find an alternative to using corn and soybeans for fuel if meat consumption is to double by 2050.


"...the global livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent—18 percent—than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation."

Doesn't this imply that promoting a more vegetarian diet might be a better route to lower GHG emissions (not to mention the health and direct environmental benefits)?


It depends on what they mean: livestock eating carbon neutral grains and fodder aren't going to increase net CO2 levels, all the CH4 they are giving off though is a WHOLE other mater which is what I think they mean (as methane has over 200 times the heat IR absorbing of CO2) by "CO2 equivalent".

Why people eat all this meat is beyond me, meat requires ~10 times as much energy as making food for people! Cellulosic biomass won't put a major dent in making human or animal grade food though.


"CO2 equivalent" refers to methane, which gram-for-gram has many times more greenhouse effect than CO2. Basically, if ya want the meat, ya gotta cap the waste and recover the methane for cogeneration, like that feedlot in Nebraska, and the Dairy project being designed in Arizona. I doubt the lower-income parts of the world are going to pay $250 million for a 7,000 head dairy facility that also produces ethanol, biodiesel and electricity...but doing even some of these things would help, and perhaps could be done in stages.

Yes, going vegetarian is easier on the land...but I don't see a world ready to live on rice, beans, and quinoa you?


I like innovative ideas like these. I was on the Social Venture Network’s website today and came across this
contest for socially responsible business leaders: It looks like a great way to reward new businesses for working toward the greater good.

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