Leading from the Left

Monday, February 19, 2007

Breakthrough Announcement Coming Shortly

I just learned that Progress Energy and Smithfield Foods, the state's leading hog producer, are holding a joint news conference at 5pm today. They will announce a pilot project to create electricity from from hog waste. In the past, utilities have contended that it's too expensive and impractical to produce energy from animal waste.

I don't know the details yet, and we all know that the fine print on projects like this is often critical. However, it does appear to be a major step in the right direction. If this project proceeds, it won't solve every problem associated with hog lagoons and the hog industry. But it will address a key global warming concern--namely, hog waste produces methane, the single largest contributor to global warming. Turning hog waste into electrical energy, recycles the methane for a good purpose, thus addressing a key contributor to global climate change.

Such an agreement could be a win-win for everyone (perhaps, even a win-win-win). The farmer wins because he/she can make money off animal waste, thus augmenting farm income. Rather than a problem, hog waste could become an economic opportunity for farmers.

The utilities could win by purchasing energy from a renewable source; this could potentially reduce the need for new coal or nuclear plants. And the environment wins because methane (the single largest contributor to global warming) is captured and used for energy rather than allowed to simply gas off into the environment.

We don't know the details of this announcement yet, and I'm hesitant to get too excited until we know all the details. However, if true this represents a very positive develop for the environment in North Carolina.