The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) have entered a new interagency collaboration promoting renewable energy generation and slashing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock operations. The agreement expands the work of the AgStar program, a joint EPA-USDA effort that helps livestock producers reduce methane emissions from their operations.
EPA and USDA’s enhanced collaboration will provide up to $3.9 million over the next five years to help the farms overcome obstacles preventing them from recovering and using biogas. The collaboration will expand technical assistance efforts, improve technical standards and guidance for the construction and evaluation of biogas recovery systems, and expand outreach to livestock producers and assist them with pre-feasibility studies.
Biogas is composed primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Biogas emitted from manure management systems called digesters can be collected and used to produce electricity, heat or hot water.
Due in large part to AgStar’s efforts, about 150 on-farm manure digesters are now operating at livestock facilities across the US. In addition, EPA estimates there are about 8,000 farms across the United States that are good candidates for capturing and using biogas. If all 8,000 farms implemented biogas systems, methane emissions would be reduced by more than 34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, roughly equal to the annual emissions from 6.5 million passenger vehicles. In addition, these projects could generate more than 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy.