Guest Commentary: Biogas energy will ‘exacerbate climate change'

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One year ago, Gov. John Carney released Delaware’s Climate Action Plan. Next month, a fight over its ramifications will come to a head. Carney’s plan to save our nation’s lowest-lying state from rising seas and a changing climate hinges upon embracing so-called “renewable natural gas.” This is a green-sounding euphemism for factory farm waste, a dirty fuel that threatens public health, climate and the environment.

Delawareans have only a short time remaining to weigh in on our state’s first industrial biogas plant in southern Delaware — it’s going to take all our voices to stop it.

Climate change is already upon us, with 22,000 Delawareans currently at risk from coastal flooding, and it’s only getting worse. Already, residents of South Bowers in Kent County are often stranded by invading bay waters, even in calm weather. Sea levels have been said to be rising faster there than anywhere else along the Atlantic coast, causing dangerous driving conditions and delaying mail delivery for days. Unless we reduce our reliance on the dirty fuels supercharging the climate crisis, Delaware’s coasts will likely disappear under up to 4 feet of water in the next century, destroying homes, rendering roads unusable and wrecking our $3.5 billion tourism industry.

Still, despite visible evidence of climate change, Carney’s state regulators are considering a project that would add to the problem. A company called Bioenergy Devco is proposing Delaware’s first industrial biogas plant, which would raise our state’s climate-warming pollution at the very time we must be reducing our reliance on dirty fuels.

The scheme is outrageous: Bioenergy Devco proposes trucking hundreds of thousands of tons of poultry industry waste to a refinery, near Seaford, to produce methane gas. The company has already lined up a 20-year contract with Perdue to supply poultry litter, bones, feathers, bedding and slaughterhouse sludge as fuel. All the company needs to break ground is the OK from Carney’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Bioenergy Devco’s gas plant would exacerbate climate change. The gas the facility proposes to produce would be methane, a greenhouse gas nearly 90 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When burned, that gas would add more climate-warming pollution to the atmosphere than a passenger car driving 71 million miles. Plus, gas flares, trucks and pipelines integral to Bioenergy Devco’s facility are notoriously leaky.

Despite the misleading attempt to brand it as “renewable,” biogas is a far dirtier source than renewable resources like wind and solar. Over its lifetime, the methane in biogas emits a whopping 490 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy it produces — more than 10 times the emissions from solar and 14 times that of wind. Delaware’s efforts to double down on solar and wind generation must be paired with a drawdown of dirty energy sources like biogas. A Food & Water Watch analysis found that, while wind and solar generation have grown, our failure to limit dirty fuels has impaired our ability to substantially reduce emissions.

Bioenergy Devco’s gas plant offers Gov. Carney a chance for redemption. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is now considering five permits this proposal needs to go forward, and the public opposition is fierce. At a public hearing last month, comments in opposition outnumbered those in support, 3-to-1.

Biogas is the wrong direction for Delaware and our climate. Gov. Carney must stop the plant and stop biogas. DNREC is accepting comments on Bioenergy Devco’s proposal until Dec. 2. Tell Gov. Carney and state environmental officials to deny Bioenergy Devco its permits. Visit the Food & Water Watch–Delaware Facebook page to learn how.

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