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Emissions Exchange Program Aims to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Among businesses addressing the global warming issue, the Chicago Climate Exchange is creating a trading market with financial incentives to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases.

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  • PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour Economics Correspondent:

    A dairy farm in mid-Minnesota: 900 contented cows; over 6,000 gallons of milk a day; and, sadly, about 20,000 tons a year of a dairy farm's foremost or, should we say, hindmost product, manure.

  • DENNIS HAUBENSCHILD, Farmer:

    That cover is being held up by the gas that's being generated.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Farmer Dennis Haubenschild has invested nearly half a million dollars in an anaerobic digester, in which bacteria deconstructs his dung heap into first-rate fertilizer and a familiar aromatic gas made up mainly of methane.

    So this is sort of a little canopy of flatulence?

  • DENNIS HAUBENSCHILD:

    That's another way of looking at it, I guess, yes.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    More noxious than this very natural gas' odor, it turns out, is its effect, the effect of its main ingredient, methane, on global warming.

    Once in the atmosphere, methane, a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide, lets sunlight through to the Earth but traps some of the heat reflected back towards space, warming the Earth like a greenhouse.

    Carbon dioxide, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, accounts for some 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from cows, farms, landfills and coal mines accounts for only 10 percent or so.

    But, pound for pound, raw methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat blanket, so Haubenschild captures as much methane as he can, then burns it to run a Caterpillar engine, that in turn helps power his farm.

    With some billion head of cattle worldwide, the converging of even a fraction of their dairy-air, if you'll pardon the expression, relieves the atmosphere. Farm witticisms at an end, let's move to the economics.

    How do you get farmers to convert?

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