WASHINGTON, March 28, 2014 – The administration today announced steps to reduce methane emissions that includes plans to lower U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
As part of the president’s climate action plan, the administration said USDA, EPA, and the Energy Department, in partnership with the dairy industry, will release a “biogas roadmap” in June outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies involving cows.
Aside from the agriculture sector, the plan also seeks to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and oil and gas systems. The administration said methane emissions make up nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States. Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11 percent, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions.
“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air,” said Dan Utech, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told reporters during a conference call.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) applauded the White House announcement. “This announcement validates the path the dairy industry is on – one focused on proactive incentives that can increase farm income, not punitive regulations that would add more costs,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and chief executive officer. “Because of our recent efforts and farmers’ long-standing environmental stewardship, the White House strategy for agriculture includes a commitment to cost-effective, voluntary actions to reduce methane emissions through partnerships and programs.”
Mulhern said the biogas and energy roadmap will help the industry by providing dairy operations access to resources in regards to using biogas systems to mitigate environmental risks; to stimulating and accelerating research to advance technologies, such as for extracting nutrients from food waste and manure; and to attracting additional third-party investment, both financial and technical.
Chandler Goule, senior vice president of programs for the National Farmers Union, said the administration’s efforts “build on the robust support for renewable energy production included in the recently passed 2014 farm bill.”
“Technologies such as methane digesters are underutilized, but can significantly reduce methane emissions,” Goule said, adding that the proposal’s voluntary on-farm methane reduction opportunities will add to farmers’ bottom lines and support rural economies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A methane digester converts manure into biogas that is fed into a methane motor that turns a generator to produce electricity.
The American Petroleum Institute took a different stance on the administration’s plan by saying its industry is substantially reducing methane emissions from oil and natural gas production on its own. Howard Feldman, API director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said, “The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment, and recent studies show emissions are far lower than EPA projected just a few years ago. Additional regulations are not necessary and could have a chilling effect on the American energy renaissance, our economy, and our national security.”
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