The New York Times has a cheerful story today about farmers using the methane in cow waste to generate natural gas, instead of just bulldozing the manure into hideous and dangerous brown lagoons, as most dairy farmers do today.
According to Lee Jensen, general manager of a 900-cow dairy in Elk Mound, Wis., "We’re not taking any risk, the reduction in odors is huge, and we’re powering 600 homes with 900 cows," he said. "You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty efficient."
Methane is a greenhouse gas. By capturing it and using it to generate energy, you’re winning on two fronts: avoiding the emissions from the coal or oil you would have burned, plus taking care of the cows’ contribution to global warming. The gardeners don’t even lose out here–the leftover liquid from the bio-digestion process used to generate the gas is apparently still good as fertilizer.
In Vermont–an enlightened place where most people have actually seen a manure lagoon and probably noticed that it is not the ideal way to dispose of cow manure–a utility called Central Vermont Public Service offers its customers a choice. They can pay more, if they want, for "cow-powered" electricity. More people have signed up for the program than Central Vermont Public Service has cow power to offer.
Why don’t our president and vice president understand that a lot of ordinary people are willing to pay more for clean power, if it means saving the world around us from an ugly climate shift, not to mention war in Iraq? We don’t need to be treated like toddlers who want what they want and to hell with the consequences. A lot of Americans are willing to be a little less comfortable today, if it means we can avoid ending up at the bottom of a brown lagoon tomorrow.