116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowans deserve vibrant communities that protect the people and places we care about, both now and for future generations. Instead, we’re getting factory farm biogas.
Factory farm biogas originates from the potent greenhouse gas methane that is generated by the massive cesspools of animal manure generated by industrialized livestock systems. The gas is added to regional pipelines and the energy grid, and the residual manure waste products are land-applied to agricultural fields. None of this process is renewable or clean — despite the industry’s greenwashed branding of it as “renewable natural gas” — nor does it reduce the manure applied to fields that can ultimately run off into Iowa’s waterways.
Factory farm biogas in Iowa means more pipelines, more factory farms and more pollution. And for what? Iowa is fast becoming a sacrifice zone, destroyed for the benefit of out-of-state investors. As The Gazette recently reported, biogas won’t make progress on reducing climate-destroying greenhouse gas emissions.
The same industrial powerhouses that littered our rural areas with factory farms (Big Ag) and incited a yearslong battle over the Bakken pipeline (Big Gas) have teamed up to feed Iowa their latest scheme.
These industries are working to entrench the dirty practice in our state, starting with the Gevo-funded facility that broke ground last month in northwest Iowa. The massive factory farm biogas operation is financed by venture capitalists and contracted to provide gas to California. While it is projected to rake in $9-16 million a year for Gevo investors, the project is a nightmare for people living in rural Iowa. First, there are the environmental hazards associated with the installation of pipelines and the certainty that, at some point, every pipeline leaks. Critically, for rural landowners, many factory farm biogas projects will likely require the use of eminent domain to secure pipeline pathways. As the Sioux County Supervisors discussed the Gevo project, they recommended eminent domain be utilized as a last choice — but a last choice still is a choice.
With the passage of HF 522 this month, Iowans can be assured that Gevo is only the first of many such facilities — and we can expect our tax dollars to finance their construction too. Without public money, these facilities wouldn’t be financially viable in the first place.
Iowans can expect more water and air pollution, more beach closures, algal blooms on waterways, noxious odors from manure, and more independent farmers driven out of business.
As Big Gas struggles to remain relevant beside true clean energy sources like wind and solar, the industry sees the technology as a win-win solution to keep building pipelines and maintain a market for fracked gas. In documents obtained last week, investors discussed “renewable natural gas” as the solution to “save the natural gas business.” For Big Ag, factory farm biogas incentivizes larger factory farms by providing a market for their waste. In states like Iowa, where our legislators routinely cater to industrial lobbyists, biogas is a serious threat.
Iowa should not be sacrificed so a few massive agribusinesses, gas corporations, and venture capitalists can profit. It’s time for our state to put the needs of everyday people before those of Wall Street.
Emma Schmit is an Iowa Organizer with Food & Water Watch. Jess Mazour is the Conservation Program Coordinator for the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter. Adam Mason is the State Policy Organizing Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund.