Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary
Two businessmen want to build a massive cow town in the Mojave Desert in Southern California, providing a home for 90,000 cattle and 600 dairy farmers and their families. Sounds like a recipe for environmental disaster, right? Maybe not: In this case, the plan is to make the development a model of eco-friendly large-scale farming. Methane would be extracted from cow droppings and used to fuel a power plant that would generate 50 megawatts of electricity — enough to run the entire cow complex and a little extra that could be piped into the Southern California electrical grid. The dairy facilities would be designed with the environment in mind, up to and including solar panels on roofs. Enviros are skeptical, however, that such a huge farming operation could really be environmentally benign. Meanwhile, a number of troubling health problems have cropped up in people who live near factory farms around the U.S., seemingly caused by toxic gases, including hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, that are emitted by enormous cesspools of animal waste.