Here in Virginia, the Democratic primary for the state’s gubernatorial race is underway. We have a few candidates running, including former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe. I was initially considering throwing my vote his way, despite his campaign’s irriating calls multiple times every week, but after a mailing I received yesterday, there’s no chance. If you don’t want to open up the PDF, take a look at the video instead:
As a vegan, I cannot justify supporting a candidate who wants to turn animal waste into energy. Why would I reject an option that, in theory, doesn’t hurt the animals? Especially one that helps clean up the environmental mess that’s a result of their intensive confinement? Because it’s just not that simple…
- Agribusiness doesn’t deserve the money. As an ethical vegan, why would I want to support factory farms (because, believe me, ain’t enough waste coming from farms like the imaginary one in the video to support McAuliffe’s plan)? Using chickens’ waste doesn’t solve the real environmental problems of overconsumption and factory farming. Rather, it financially rewards those causing the problem. Let’s look at another by-product of meat production: leather. The argument is that leather is just a by-product and the materials would otherwise be wasted and discarded. But, a USDA report states that animal skins are “the most economically important byproduct” of the meatpacking industry. It’s not just an afterthought, it’s an essential part of the operation of slaughterhouses and the poultry waste used for energy could potentially become nearly as essential.
- It’s not proven to be environmentally sound. If it ain’t clean and sustainable, why is it even a topic for consideration? This Washington Post piece points out a number of criticisms of the chicken waste-to-energy concept:
Environmental groups have been largely critical of efforts to generate energy from waste products such as garbage or droppings. Often such plants produce harmful emissions.
In addition, critics note that raw poultry waste already brings in top dollar as a fertilizer — more, sometimes, than the energy it can produce.
“It does not make sense to try to solve a waste problem as an energy solution,” [Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network] said. “It is an unproven technology that is going to serve only to delay and confuse the real solutions in Virginia, which are energy efficiency and true renewable energy like wind and solar.”
- Fibrowatt. Fibrowatt is a Pennsylvania-based company aiming to build a power plan on the Eastern Short of Maryland that would run completely on logging and poultry waste. There has been a lot of opposition to Fibrowatt and “poultry litter incineration” in North Carolina, calling the process “dirtier than coal, more expensive than wind, and litter incineration as an economic threat to farmers” (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League).
Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Moran, criticized McAuliffe’s fixation on chicken waste. “He’s made it seem like chicken waste is the solution to the problem, and we’re not even sure how much of an answer it is,” he said.
I couldn’t find a stated position for Creigh Deeds. I’ve sent him an e-mail and a note on Twitter and am awaiting a response.
While I’m sure none of the candidates are going to completely satisfy my lefty political desires, I can definitely say that I will not be voting for a candidate that so enthusiastically and aggressively supports plans like chicken waste-to-energy. We shouldn’t be putting more money into the pockets of factory farms while diverting attention from real solutions like reduced consumption, energy efficiency, and clean technogies like solar and wind power.
(Update: Creigh Deeds replied to my inquiry on twitter: “Great potential in poultry waste, and other ag waste for that matter.” Sigh.)