06 July 2006

Cow Power

Cow Power

“In a sense, it is the ultimate renewable source of fuel. Weather anomalies can kill off corn crops, calm the winds, obscure the sun — but through rain or shine, gusts or stillness, cows and hogs and turkeys spew forth a steady stream of manure, one of nature's richest sources of methane, a principal component of natural gas.”

I came across an interesting article on the subject many have termed “Brown Energy”, and thought I’d post some relevant highlights as well as ask for feedback regarding perceived merits from everyone.

The article, written by Claudia H. Deutsch for the NYT gave me some ponders as to the application of technology to sustainable resources. Several of the ‘benefits’ seem to have merit and value; I’d be interested in your thoughts.


“…now, farmers and entrepreneurs are recognizing that this immutable fact can yield a steady stream of revenue and profit, too. Slowly, but steadily, they are replacing the malodorous lagoons used to treat the waste with machines that can wrest energy from excrement.”

“…technologies, some of which have been around for decades, have finally grown more reliable. "There's been a lot of time and energy spent on making these as effective and efficient as possible, so anaerobic digestion will be a growing business," said Daniel J. Mannes, vice president of Avondale Partners, a securities research firm that recently initiated coverage of the Environmental Power Corporation, the company in Portsmouth, N.H., that owns Microgy.”

"The business model of producing energy along with food will transform the economics of rural America,"

said Michael T. Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, based in Washington.


Indeed, anaerobic digestion yields not just methane, but leftover liquids that farmers can use or sell as fertilizer, waste heat that can heat their homes and barns, and fibrous solids that make excellent bedding for cows. Farmers also save the costs of controlling odors and treating waste. "Two years ago I couldn't even convince farmers that digesters work," said Melissa Dvorak, marketing manager for GHD, a company based in Chilton, Wis., that sells digesters. "Now, all they ask is what the payback will be."

Now proper research will provide information that some of this “(cow) Pie in the Sky” hype is funded in part by good ole’ government subsidies (to which this author is not a big fan of by any measure) so it will be interesting to see how this plays out – sustainable development or just old fashion BS? You decide.

Note: This author does own shares in Environmental Power Corporation (EPG) and in no way shape or form recommends or suggests investing, purchasing or even remotely considering purchase of/or investing in such company or any company for that matter. Fact of the matter is this company is likely to go “belly up” as much as going “sky high”, as well any reference to “belly up” no way is a solicitation to ‘cow tipping’ and ‘sky high’ does not infer that one should go ‘sky diving’. All these thing are inherently dangerous and could incur risk to you or the cows. Caveat emptor; drive responsibly, blah, blah, blah……………I hope that covered it! Regards.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger kansasrose said...

Excellent blog! I really enjoy your historical take on agriculture. A book I have called Six Thousand Years of Bread , It's Holy and Unholy History by H.E. Jacob is one you would enjoy. Also, All Flesh is Grass by Gene Lodgson.

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Scott Holtzman said...

I've come across that title, and is an interesting book. I've yet to read All Flesh is Grass, but it was with that in mind that I posted the article on the 24th of June - talk about Unholy!

Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments.


At 5:26 PM, Blogger kansasrose said...

Have you heard of the landinstitute.org? It is not far from me...Amazing! Dr. Wes Jackson founded it 30 years ago and has worked to produce a perennial wheat grain source. Excellent agrarian resources and writings on the land. Who knew all this could be in Kansas? Enjoy!

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Urban Agrarian said...

I somehow landed on your blog which I enjoyed and will bookmark. My thoughts on this technology that gets energy from manure tend to be a little mixed. It seems like a good idea, but does the manure have to be trucked somewhere using fuel? Also I'm an an advocate of raising animals on pasture. Their manure then fertilizes the pasture and becomes a plus not a minus and grass fed beef is more healthy to eat anyway. I wonder if as a nation we have the resources to feed ourselves with meat that's pasture raised. I suspect yes, but don't have research to prove it.


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