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Top experts in biomethane met in Sacramento for the first-ever national summit on the topic, talking about taking cow waste, harnessing the methane it emits and turning it into natural gas to power vehicles.
"This is extremely exciting, and this is really a budding industry here in California," said Erik Neandross, /*Biomethane Summit*/ organizer. "It's just getting started with tremendous potential."
It could be the future for California's ailing dairy farms, which have seen milk prices and profits drop lately.
About a dozen are already trying it in California, with many more interested -- but they can't afford the equipment.
"Costs are extraordinary," said Michael Marsh, /*Western United Dairymen*/. "To place a methane digester on a dairy, our average cost is about $1.2 million per installation."
If production costs ever go down, it's a fuel that could take off in demand. Biomethane can power anything that runs on natural gas, like busses.
While biomethane helps reduce California's dependence on foreign oil, it has environmental benefits too. It will help meet the state's aggressive reductions in greenhouse gasses.
Transportation is responsible for nearly 40 percent of emissions that cause global warming.
"Biomethane as a fuel can produce 80 to 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to traditional fuels such as gasoline and diesel," said DeeDee D'Adamo, /*California Air Resources Board*/ member.
The industry isn't quite there yet, but the goal is to make biomethane cheaper than regular gasoline.
And there will have to be a lot more natural gas vehicles on the market to increase demand for this up-and-coming fuel.