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Manure biogas systems might seem like an easy, profitable, and beneficial method of climate change mitigation in the animal agriculture industry. But what does relying solely on manure biogas leave out of the picture?  

Globally, animal agriculture contributes approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change. One approach to mitigate this impact is the use of anaerobic digestors to capture emissions from manure lagoons, which creates a new fuel source and new revenue stream from the waste.  

These benefits sound promising—but what are we missing when we talk about manure biogas?  

Relying on manure biogas systems to mitigate livestock GHG emissions ignores both the extensive emissions created throughout the lifecycle of the livestock industry before lagoon storage and the environmental justice impacts that perpetuating confined animal feeding operations, the only profitable user of manure biogas systems, will have on communities impacted by factory farms. 

Written by Ruthie Lazenby, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School, “Rethinking Manure Biogas: Policy Considerations to Promote Equity and Protect the Climate and Environment” dives deep into the existing policies incentivizing manure biogas operations, the environmental justice impacts of locking in existing systems of industrial animal agriculture, as well as alternative methods of capturing livestock emissions and recommendations for policymakers.  

The report focuses specifically on the equity implications of manure biogas, aligning with two Executive Orders by President Biden, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” and “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”  

This publication was made possible with support from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service.