A policy or program that pays producers for these emission reductions—through a carbon offset market or directly with payments—could increase the number of livestock producers who would profit from adopting a methane digester, according to a report by USDA Economic Research Service.
Methane digesters—biogas recovery systems that use methane from manure to generate electricity—have thus far not been widely adopted in the United States because costs have exceeded benefits. Burning methane in a digester reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manure management.
ERS researchers developed an economic model that illustrates how swine and dairy operation size, location, and manure management methods, along with electricity and carbon prices, could influence methane digester profits. The model shows that a relatively moderate increase in the price of carbon could induce significantly more operations, particularly large ones, to adopt a methane digester, thereby substantially lowering emissions of greenhouse gases.