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SoCal Dairy Farmers Look to Turn Waste into Energy

Photo by USDAgov via Flickr
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Though California dairy farmers are still suffering from the low cost of whey, some are looking to purchase a new technology that could help them turn the waste from their farms into profit.

These digesters aren't exactly a foreign concept to the farmers that make products like Calfornia famous milk and cheese possible. Back in the 1980s digesters were purchased by farmers to help convert waste too, but unfortunately they were less-than-efficient, and ended up being big wastes of money. After spending millions of dollars on the machinery, it turned out that there were "unexpected pollution problems, regulatory roadblocks and low rates of return killed most such digester systems, leaving only a handful in operation," according to the L.A. Times. They also let off nitrogen oxide, or NOx, a component of smog. Whoops.

Dairy farmer Ron Koetsier, who runs 1,200 head of cattle in Visalia, will be the first to test out the new multi-million dollar machines under the state's new program. He's one of many farmers in the ultra-polluted San Joaquin Valley that hope this might be the solution.

Says the Times:

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State officials are pushing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that is causing utilities to pursue more renewable energy sources. Experts say digesters show particular promise in California, the top dairy producing state with 1.8 million cows. "If these digesters run properly, they can reduce odors associated with manure, stabilize nitrogen and have a number of environmental benefits," said John Blue, climate change advisor for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Of course, many vegans will argue that we could just eliminate this problem all together by moving to a meat-free lifestyle. And it wouldn't be hard here in L.A., considering we were just named one of the country's top three most vegan-friendly cities.