Biogas is not a panacea for reducing greenhouse gases, says Vermont Law report
Climate change mitigation efforts must consider both environmental justice impacts and total emissions before relying on biogas to reduce impact on livestock.
Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) released a new report on Tuesday, “Rethinking Manure Biogas: Policy Considerations to Promote Equity and Protect Climate and the Environment,” which examines the use of anaerobic manure digesters to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from animal farms.
On August 12, 2022, Congress passed the Reducing Inflation Act, which approved new, expanded tax credits for biogas, adding it to the list of eligible renewable energy sources such as l solar and wind energy. The bill now awaits the signature of President Biden, who is expected to sign the bill today.
However, climate change mitigation plans that rely on manure biogas – which turns animal manure, often from concentrated feeding operations (CAFOs), into fuel – often ignore the broader environmental, social and financial contexts in which biogas works, says the CAFS report.
Written by Ruthie Lazenby, an attorney at Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Environmental Justice Clinic, “Rethinking Manure Biogas” takes a deep dive into the existing structure incentivizing manure biogas operations, their direct impacts on environmental justice, as well as as alternative methods of capturing livestock emissions. and recommendations for policy makers.
The report specifically focuses on the equity implications of manure biogas, in line with two President Biden executive orders, “Combating the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” and “Advancing Racial Equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government”.
“Environmental justice communities across the country have spent decades fighting for stronger protections against the air, water and health damage imposed by factory farms,” the author said. of the report, Ruthie Lazenby. “The recent surge of enthusiasm for manure biogas among policy makers threatens to lock down the very systems these communities are fighting against, under the guise of clean energy. There is nothing forward-thinking about rewarding industrial operations for capturing the GHG emissions they voluntarily produce – an intervention that can only be considered mitigation due to the continued failure of lawmakers. state and federal governments to regulate GHG emissions and other pollution from factory farms as they do virtually all other industries.
Livestock is responsible for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 57% of emissions directly related to the food industry. As the climate continues to change, livestock is an area where emissions mitigation must be implemented quickly and effectively.
While capturing emissions from livestock manure using anaerobic digesters that convert waste to biogas has emerged as a win-win solution for the livestock industry and the natural gas industry, the adoption of these systems omits a variety of problems which must be solved before committing to manure. biogas to the detriment of more global strategies.
Relying on manure biogas systems to mitigate GHG emissions from livestock ignores both the significant emissions created by the livestock industry outside of manure storage and the environmental justice impacts of lockdowns. existing factory farming systems by investing in expensive and long-lasting infrastructure that requires continuous production. manure to remain financially viable.
“It is imperative that policymakers address the GHG emissions created by agriculture, but we have seen that biogas is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Laurie Beyranevand, director of the Center for Agriculture and food systems. “The incentive to capture biogas from manure perpetuates an agricultural system that policymakers must help farmers move away from. This results in many environmental externalities that have been supported for too long by environmental justice communities. Any climate change legislation that contemplates additional support and subsidies for manure biogas must deliver on its impact, not just its promise.
The report concludes with several recommendations for policymakers considering the adoption of manure biogas systems for GHG mitigation that would allow them to not only reap the benefits of the technology, but also address various environmental damages and social issues that factory farms impose on local communities. These recommendations include:
–Properly account for the full climate impacts of biogas from manure and ensure that lifecycle emissions analyzes consider the full range of emissions
–Considering the full impact of policies supporting manure biogas on the environment, public health and quality of life
–Evaluate USDA manure biogas programs to ensure they do not have a disproportionate impact on the basis of race, national origin, or other protected class
To view the report and full list of recommendations for policymakers, visit vermontlaw.edu/manure-biogas. This publication was made possible through support from the National Agricultural Library, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
About the VLGS Center for Agriculture and Food Systems: The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law and Graduate School uses law and policy to build a more sustainable and just food system . In partnership with local, regional, national and international partners, CAFS addresses food system challenges related to food justice, food security, access to agricultural land, agricultural workers’ rights, the well-being of animals, worker protection, the environment and public health, among others. CAFS works closely with its partners to provide legal services that meet their needs and develop resources that empower the communities they serve. Through the CAFS Food and Agriculture Clinic and Research Assistant program, students work directly on projects alongside partners nationwide, engaging in innovative work that spans the food system. Visit www.vermontlaw.edu/cafs to learn more.
SOUTH ROYALTON, VERMONT, USA, Aug. 16, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Vermont Law and Graduate School 8.16.2022