Today in greenwashing: a state-sponsored video about the purported benefits of biogas


By Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch/The Progressive Pulse

April 27, 2021


A two-minute video promoting the alleged benefits of biogas is notable not for what it says, but for what it fails to say.


The video was co-sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture, the NC Pork Council and the state’s Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Heather Overton, spokeswoman for the agriculture department, said the commission paid $5,600 for the production. The General Assembly created the commission in 2000 to distribute settlement money from major cigarette manufacturers to farmers and other workers displaced by the downturn of the tobacco industry. Its administratively housed under the agriculture department. The commission did not return an email message seeking comment.


The video was sent from Laura Kilian, the agriculture department’s legislative liaison, to members of the Senate Agriculture, Energy and Environment Committee on Monday.


What was said: “Renewable natural gas derived from biogas is recognized as some of the cleanest, most carbon-negative fuels that we can consume.”  — Gus Simmons of Cavanagh & Associates, the engineer behind the major biogas installations in the state: Optima KV and Align RNG. Simmons also is a member of the Energy Policy Council, appointed by the governor.


What was not said: First, who is doing the recognizing?


Second, the term “carbon-negative fuels” is slippery. A technology can emit no or very little carbon dioxide, but still send greenhouse gases into the air in the form of methane. Methane emissions can be expressed in tons of “carbon dioxide equivalent,” but it’s not clear what Simmons means here.


Nor did the video present data, not even a handy chart, to illustrate the “net methane” emissions from these operations. That means methane emitted from the secondary lagoon, which is uncovered, plus the sprayfield system, plus any leakage from the pipelines and other infrastructure, minus the methane captured by the covered lagoon, also known as an anaerobic digester. If the data is scientifically sound and contains good news, then by all means, share it.


What was said: “We capture all the emissions. We capture all the biogas.” — Kraig Westerbeek, vice president environment and support operations, Smithfield Foods


What was not said:


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