Why some California dairies are profiting more from methane production than milk

In California, cow manure is now more valuable than milk—and it’s leading to a “growing climate dystopia” in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, writes Kevin Hall in an editorial for The Fresno Bee. Blame the state’s “pay-to-pollute” climate change response, which incentivizes dairies to profit from the production of methane gases. Dairies are partnering with energy companies to install anaerobic digesters, which help convert “manure lagoons” into profitable energy. That energy is neither clean nor green, but it’s leading more dairies and other large-scale animal feeding operations to expand herds, which will worsen air and water quality in California’s Central Valley. The problem is compounded by the state’s ill-crafted cap-and-trade program, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing polluters with an economic incentive to invest in cleaner energy. Instead, it facilitated the growth of a carbon “credit scheme” that attracts billions of dollars in investment, but which has failed to lower greenhouse gas emissions fast enough. President Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation, which expands investment in dairy digester programs, only stands to make the problem worse, writes Hall.