A new report released today by the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch details how public policy is transforming manure from a waste stream to a corporate revenue stream. “The Big Oil and Big Ag Ponzi Scheme: Factory Farm Gas” outlines how the country’s largest fossil fuel and agriculture companies are investing billions of dollars on the buildout of factory farm biogas, an elaborate and highly-profitable greenwashing scheme that encourages the expansion of polluting factory farms and methane gas at the expense of the climate, environmental justice and sustainable family farming.
California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) has been the nation’s primary driver of factory farm biogas development. Meanwhile, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 – hailed as the most important climate law in the nation’s history – is poised to further incentivize the industry. As companies like Chevron, BP, Shell, Smithfield, Perdue and Tyson invest heavily in a dangerous national methane production network, an LCFS rulemaking that began January 5 offers the first chance in years to realign public incentives away from factory farm pollution.
Among the report’s findings:
- From 2017 to 2021, private investment in factory farm gas tripled to $1.6 billion. The following year, in 2022, Shell and BP alone spent more than $6 billion on biogas operations.
- Top independent methane digester firms grew 300 percent from 2019 to 2020.
- Up to 90 percent of methane digester revenue comes through government-sanctioned environmental credit trading schemes like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. Grant programs expanded by the Inflation Reduction Act will provide much greater funding moving forward.
“Factory farms pose a well-documented threat to our climate, environment and communities. Thanks to misguided state and federal policies, Big Oil and Big Ag are set to profit heavily off the dirty status quo,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “Factory farm biogas is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to greenwash the corporate agriculture and fossil fuel industries. Adequately protecting our climate and communities means transitioning fully to truly clean, renewable energy – not propping up our country’s worst polluters.”
While corporate oil and ag giants sell the myth of emissions reductions from factory farm biogas, there is little evidence that it is having any positive impact. Methane from factory farms is no different than fossil gas – which leaks from infrastructure like pipelines and compressor stations, and creates air and climate pollution when burned. The consequences of these policies are considerable – increased air and water pollution in communities already impacted by factory farms, and massive subsidies going to fossil fuel companies and Big Ag behemoths.