New Research Reveals Factory Farm Manure Biogas Production Harms Environmental Justice, Fails to Achieve Methane Reduction Targets and Worsens Consolidation



Media contact:
Shaye Skiff
Friends of the Earth
(202) 222-0723

February 21, 2024 

First-of-its-kind analysis casts doubt on a linchpin of the Biden administration’s methane reduction strategy  

Washington, D.C.—Today, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Socially Responsible Agriculture Project released a new report, Biogas or Bull****? The Deceptive Promise of Manure Biogas as a Methane Solution.

As the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on producing methane gas from factory farms, new research shows how manure biogas will entrench highly polluting and unjust systems of industrial animal agriculture and fossil fuel energy for decades to come—all for methane reduction benefits that are overstated and insufficient to meet the Biden administration’s climate targets. 

Analysis of government data shows that dairy operations with anaerobic digesters are more likely to increase their herd sizes relative to statewide populations, exacerbating the climate and environmental justice harms from factory farming and increasing industry consolidation.

“Manure biogas is a greenwashing measure that directly undermines the Biden administration’s promises to achieve environmental justice, meet our climate targets, and create fair markets for producers,” said Chloë Waterman, senior program manager, Friends of the Earth U.S. “At a time when scientific consensus confirms that high-polluting countries like the U.S. need to shift away from fossil fuels and reduce industrial livestock production, support for manure biogas does the exact opposite. We implore policymakers to reject factory farm gas and invest taxpayer dollars into truly renewable sources of energy and farmers employing meaningful conservation practices.” 

This report comes on the heels of a letter from 16 Members of Congress to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack critiquing the agency’s decision to classify several manure biogas-related practices as “climate-smart” and receive priority for Inflation Reduction Act-authorized conservation funding.

“Industrial livestock operations are chronic polluters that pose an ongoing threat to public health and the environment,” said Chris Hunt, deputy director, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. “Installing factory farm gas digesters doesn’t change this; instead, it incentivizes the largest livestock facilities to expand, while diverting scarce public funds from true climate solutions.” 

The report documents dozens of public programs supporting manure biogas production and includes short case studies from California, Delaware, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio, showing how these costly projects are harming rural communities, especially communities of color. 

Key findings from the report include:  

  • Manure biogas is incompatible with the goals of environmental justice and public health, generating additional concerns for communities living near factory farms, including increased ammonia emissions, water pollution, new pipelines and trucks, and more toxic air pollution than is produced by fossil gas.
  • Herd sizes at dairy facilities with digesters grew 3.7 percent year-over-year, which is 24 times the growth rate for overall dairy herd sizes in the states covered by our data set.
  • Installing dairy digesters will fall far short of the reductions needed to slash agricultural methane emissions in line with the Biden administration’s commitment to the Global Methane Pledge, but reducing herd sizes by 20 percent and implementing feasible alternative manure management strategies on 1,500 dairy farms could yield 55 percent of the reductions that are needed to slash agricultural methane emissions in alignment with the Global Methane Pledge.
  • Manure gas digesters are an expensive, inefficient approach to reducing GHG emissions; other strategies could reduce emissions at a third of the cost.
  • Data collection and disclosure from livestock facilities with digesters is wholly insufficient to accurately measure methane emissions.
  • Incentivizing manure biogas production increases the competitive advantage for large-scale producers, contributes to industry consolidation, and crowds out funding for truly effective conservation practices.

The report concludes with policy recommendations focused on redirecting resources currently supporting manure biogas to more cost-effective methane reduction solutions that do not exacerbate environmental injustice and industry consolidation. The authors argue that instead, policies should support a just transition away from factory farming to regenerative agriculture and away from fossil fuels to truly renewable energy.

About SRAP
For more than 20 years, SRAP has served as a mobilizing force to help communities protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Learn more at


Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.