Debunking Delaware Biogas: The Truth Behind Industry Lies

Bioenergy DevCo is pushing lies to bring a new polluting biogas project to Delaware. We’re bringing you the truth.

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Climate and Energy

by Greg Layton

Facts are not on the side of the Bioenergy DevCo biogas scheme proposed for Delaware. The company claims to have a solution for Delaware’s poultry waste problem. (Thanks to the state’s many factory farm chicken operations, nearly 300,000 tons of it gets dumped onto Delaware fields each year.)

With its partners among Big Ag and Big Oil, Bioenergy is selling the myth that digesters, methane refineries and the so-called factory farm “biogas” they produce would be a sustainable fix. But that’s a blatant lie.

As the company applies for permits on a new facility, Bioenergy has aimed its lies at the public and our elected officials. But we know the facility would worsen our climate crisis, which already threatens to put the state underwater. And it threatens to pollute our air and our water, further sickening our state’s most vulnerable communities.

Industry and their legislative enablers must rely on word games and misinformation to garner support for their nightmare project. But Food & Water Watch is breaking down their dangerous lies. Here’s what you need to know.

Biogas Digesters Won’t Make Factory Farm Pollution Disappear

Delaware’s factory farms are a fountain of unsustainable amounts of waste — but digesters won’t change that. 

Anaerobic digesters place plant or animal waste in an oxygen-free environment with microorganisms. The microorganisms feed on the waste, releasing methane and other gasses. While the “biogas” methane gets sold and burned on the fossil fuel market, what remains after anaerobic digestion must still be disposed of. 

Companies give these remains a healthy-sounding name like “digestate,” “biofertilizer” or “compost” to sell them to farmers. But they aren’t healthy at all. Most of the harmful pollutants found in poultry waste remain in the resulting “digestate.” 

Nonetheless, farmers who buy the “digestate” will dump it on their fields. But there, it can leach into groundwater and run off into rivers, streams and bays. Because of the pollutants left in the digestate, it wreaks the same environmental havoc as the undigested waste currently harming Delaware’s waters. 

Biogas Will Ramp Up Dangerous Methane Pollution

We have good reason to worry about runaway methane emissions, as the gas has a climate impact 90 times greater than carbon dioxide. But factory farm waste isn’t a major source of it. Though poultry waste can emit greenhouse gasses when poorly managed, it sends little into the atmosphere.

What does emit a lot? Biogas production. Digesters maximize the production of methane, to maximize the amount that companies can sell as so-called “renewable natural gas.” And despite industry promises, the digesters and infrastructure that transport methane routinely leak it into the atmosphere. 

What’s more, the methane sent to the fossil fuel market releases carbon dioxide when burned, worsening climate change. Burning the methane produced by Bioenergy DevCo’s project alone would have the same climate impact as a passenger car driving 71 million miles per year.

Biogas Is No Better Than Fracked Gas 

Industry wants to sell biogas as an alternative, but biogas is functionally the same as fracked gas. Both biogas and fracked gas are mostly composed of methane. They would be moved by the same pipelines, used by the same industries in the same ways. 

The fossil fuel industry knows biogas won’t likely replace fracked gas, or even make up a large proportion of its sales. But adding biogas into their mix allows the industry to slap a “renewable” label on its product — and qualify for government subsidies. 

Regional gas company Chesapeake Utilities apparently doesn’t plan to substitute biogas for the fracked gas it currently sells. If allowed by federal regulators, it wants to expand its gas pipeline facilities near the proposed biogas plant to carry more gas, point blank. It will be worse for the climate, not better.

Biogas Is Nowhere Close to Clean or Renewable 

You may see industry bragging that biogas is better for the climate than coal. But that’s like saying a cork in the hull of a sinking ship would be better than doing nothing. Coal is the dirtiest power source on the planet, so pretty much every energy source in the world would be less polluting than coal. 

Comparing biogas to truly renewable sources of power, such as wind and solar, is much more revealing, and that comparison is not remotely close. Over its lifetime, the methane in biogas emits a whopping 490 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy it produces. Meanwhile, solar power emits 30 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, and wind power emits a miniscule 11 grams.

Clearly, as the world works to transition away carbon-based energy, dirty biogas is not a viable alternative. To avert the worst of a looming climate crisis, we must say “no” to this false solution.

We Don’t Need “Carbon Negative” If We Stop Pollution At The Source

Proponents claim biogas will make factory farms “carbon negative.” The truth is, “Carbon negative” is a hollow buzz phrase. The oil and gas industry wields it to greenwash and prolong their climate-destroying operations. 

Factory farms don’t need biogas — or fossil fuel partners — to become climate-friendly. Any greenhouse gas emissions emitted from poultry waste can actually be avoided with better waste management and agricultural practices. 

Stopping the growth and expansion of Delaware’s factory farms would limit pollution at its source. But that’s not profitable for the corporations pulling the strings. Instead of doing what’s right, these “biogas” schemes want to increase greenhouse gasses for profit. Climate-negative claims are a shell game.  

Biogas is Bunk. Help Us Stop The Lies!

These myths are dangerous, slung from the mouths of industry representatives as well as elected and appointed government officials. But Delawareans are nobody’s fool. 

You can join us to stop the spread of industry misinformation. On October 26, you can attend a public hearing about Bioenergy DevCo’s scheme. And you can tell our governor that we aren’t falling for industry myths.

Tell Delaware Governor John Carney that Delaware says “No” to biogas!