Urban Fold

Californians May Soon Be Cooking With Cow Power

With the largest dairy herds in the U.S., California could generate up to 5% of its natural gas from cow manure.

Looking to utilize a process already used in other states and countries, a major California utility is making plans to distribute natural gas generated from cow excrement collected at Central Valley dairies.

"Turning dairies into the equivalent of gas fields is, in some ways, relatively simple. Manure is collected and dumped into a tank that removes oxygen and controls the temperature. Bacteria break down the waste and release gas -- mostly methane and carbon dioxide."

"This is a big experiment for us to see how a process like this can work," stated Bob Howard, PG&E vice president in charge of gas distribution.

"Under Howard's best-case scenario, PG&E might be able to get 5 percent of its gas from farms in 10 to 15 years."

Thanks to Darrell Waller

Full Story: GOT GAS?



Bovine methane collectors

This is great news that PG&E is looking to buy methane produced from cow manure. But why stop there? I understand that bovine flatulence is a big source of greenhouse gases; can't someone come up with an individual cow gas collector?

How About Methane From Garbage?

Garbage also generates methane when it decomposes, and landfills leak methane.

I've always thought that cities should put the garbage in composters, add some water, and collect the methane as the garbage decomposes. This would mean much less volume to put in the landfills, a less severe greenhouse gas emitted, and (I expect) a much larger source of methane than cows could ever be.

Of course, the big question is how much it would cost. Has anyone studies the economics of this idea?

Charles Siegel

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