Cow Poop Powers California Dairy

A well-fed dairy cow produces 120 pounds of poop a day — some 43,000 pounds a year. What to do with all that doo? Dairy farmer Albert Straus of Marin County, Calif., puts it in a big covered lagoon, where it decomposes and generates tons of methane gas, which he captures and uses to power his farm, his creamery, and his electric car. In California, where 1,950 commercial dairies house some 2 million excreting bovines, the state energy commission recently allocated $10 million in matching funds to encourage farmers to build methane digesters, and a 2003 state law paved the way for utilities to set up “net metering” for the farmers, which makes it possible for them to reduce or erase their electric bills. Not only will Straus save some $5,000 to $6,000 a month in energy costs, he is preventing tons of methane (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide) from drifting into the atmosphere and organic pollutants from contaminating water sources. Plus, he now has a built-in, renewable source of jokes.