Cow Power: Vermont leads the way

On Wednesday, April 23rd, UVM Transportation Research Center, in collaboration with Vermont Clean Cities and Energy Vision, played host to a group of leaders who are changing the face of energy extraction and production.

Conference attendees network between sessions at the Cow Power: Turning Organic Waste into Vehicle Fuel for Vermont Conference

The event, Cow Power: Turning Organic Waste into Vehicle Fuel for Vermont, was designed to bring together all of the groups and individuals leading the push for the production and use of renewable natural gas from a variety of organic feedstocks via anaerobic digestion. The digestion process turns organic waste streams such as food scraps, cow manure, and other byproducts from food production into a renewable form of natural gas which can than be used to create power, heat, or fuel for vehicles. Secretary Chuck Ross of Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, opened the conference with a rousing speech that highlighted the accomplishments of everyone in the room and discussed what is needed to continue to keep Vermont at the forefront of this technology.  (You can see Secretary Ross’s entire welcoming address below).

“There are so many different sources of organics — from farms, from dairies, from municipalities — that have long been considered waste, but in fact are an ideal feedstock to generate a clean, almost carbon free fuel” explained Joanna Underwood, President of Energy Vision.  Vermont is a great proving ground for this technology because of the small population and large number of farms.  The next step in developing this process is creating more efficient streams of organic waste and making fuel production more economical.

Alex Depillis, Dr. Asa Hopkins, Patrick Wood, and Mike Raker discuss the economic and policy landscape of RNG.

Alex Depillis, Dr. Asa Hopkins, Patrick Wood, and Mike Raker discuss the economic and policy landscape of RNG.

At the end of the day. Energy Vision’s Vice President, Matt Tomich, moderated a discussion with several key government and business leaders regarding public policy, economic challenges, and what’s next. The mood was optimistic but cautious.  The private sector is eager to continue introducing this technology, the farmers are always interested in finding new ways to diversify their income streams, and the state wants to support all of the players to make this new energy source viable.  “Finding new, clean fuels is great.  It’s even better when this new fuel is taking advantage of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.  The fact that this is also supporting local farmers makes this even more incredible,” said Michelle McCutcheon-Schour, Coordinator, Vermont Clean Cities Coalition.  “This conference was a great first step in bringing together the key stakeholders vital to the propagation of this technology but we still have a lot of work to be done.” Energy Vision is a New York-based, national non-profit organization that analyzes and promotes ways to make a swift transition to the clean, petroleum-free transportation fuels of the future. For more information on Energy Vision, visit: Vermont Clean Cities is a regional affiliate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national Clean Cities program. The program’s mission is to advance the economic, environmental and energy security of the U.S. by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that contribute to reduced petroleum consumption in the transportation sector. For more information, visit:

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