I’m from Wisconsin.  We have lots of cows, which means we have lots of great milk and cheese, but also lots of lovely cow byproducts.  But here’s the thing: we have the technology now to turn all that manure into electricity and even automobile fuel.  The Crave Brothers are doing it, and my neighbors at the dairy farm down the road are trying it, despite the township’s moronic efforts to shut them down.

Happy Cow

Seriously, could these guys be any more useful?

From cows to biogas: here’s the story.

Biogas is a product of the breakdown of organic matter without the presence of oxygen (hence the term anaerobic digesters).  Basically, these airtight digesters are fed biodegradable wastes like sewage or other crop or food wastes, and the result is natural gas.  It can be used for electricity, heating, cooling, or in an internal combustion engine (when the gas is compressed).

And biogas does more than just make something useful out of stuff we really don’t want to deal with.  It releases significantly less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (up to 88% less emissions than petroleum-based gasoline).  And despite the less-than-appetizing inputs, biogas emissions are virtually odorless.  As a bonus, biogas is cheaper than normal gas.

One drawback is that biogas and regular compressed natural gas require larger storage areas than gasoline.  And while carting around big tanks of combustible fuel might freak out drivers, such vehicles are actually safer than normal cars.  Biogas hasn’t yet appealed strongly to the consumer market, although it is slowly gaining a foothold in Sweden.

Will we see biogas cars ruling the roadways in America anytime soon?  It might be a really great solution to our oil problems, but at this point, our alternative fuel dreams seem to be heading in different directions.