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writing for godot

When the chips are down: cow manure plentiful and cleaner than coal

Written by Rick Chamberlin   
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 06:49
“They think they can make fuel from horse manure – now, I don’t know if your car will be able to get 30 miles to the gallon, but it’s sure gonna put a stop to siphoning.”
-Billie Holiday

This weekend, thousands of people, some of them from other nations, will gather about a mile from my home to celebrate poop.

Cow flop, to be precise. It’s called the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw & Festival and it’s been a cash cow for our town for over a quarter of a century. The event’s Web site notes that cow chips were once used as a source of fuel for cooking and heating by early settlers. The dried meadow muffins burned with intense heat and gave a clean, bright, odorless flame free of soot.
Now we toss them around for sport.

I’m all for good clean fun, but it’s even more exciting to think that cow manure from area farms could soon be used to fuel our cars. As Edward Humes highlights in an article in the Sept/Oct edition of Sierra Magazine, a Western Washington University professor and his students have built a hybrid car that gets the equivalent of 94 miles a gallon using fuel made from cow manure. As amazing as the source of the fuel and the mileage is the projected equivalent cost per gallon: about $2.50.

As the article notes, burning this biogas is a huge winner for the environment because it displaces fossil fuels and removes a major source of methane (22 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere.

That blows corn ethanol away, which at best yields the same amount of energy used to produce it, has a huge carbon footprint and may contribute to food shortages around the world. I for one would like to see our dairy farmers being paid to produce fuel from something that can’t be eaten.

The great irony here? Crap is a heap of a lot cleaner than coal and oil, the two filthy fuels that currently provide most of the power for our state and are contributing to global warming. Coal and oil are not renewable. Manure is.

Several communities around the country, including a few here in Wisconsin, have the right idea. They’re building anaerobic manure digesters to produce methane for fuel. But there’s no reason every rural community in the country can’t produce poop power.

Let’s not throw it all away. Let’s find more ways to turn manure into a cash cow for our farmers and rural communities. your social media marketing partner
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