Biogas is a renewable energy resource that holds tremendous potential to help meet our future energy needs. As a versatile energy resource, it can be utilized as a feedstock for electricity and/or heat, a source of renewable natural gas, or as a vehicle fuel. Materials that can be used to produce biogas are abundant, especially in the Midwest – an area rich with livestock production, food processing byproducts, and crop residues. Agricultural production is not the only source of biogas production in the Midwest; wastewater treatment facilities, urban wood and yard wastes, and landfills also provide a feedstock source.
The Midwest is behind other parts of the world in deploying biogas technology. Other countries are gaining value from producing natural gas substitutes for transportation, heat, and other purposes. Based on operational experience abroad, the Midwest could produce more biogas from combining multiple organic feedstocks in the same system and developing centralized biogas plants. Such new production models would be instrumental in expanding biogas production beyond the large livestock facilities, where the technology has previously been associated.
Still greater opportunities lie ahead for biogas if we are able to move beyond the models of electricity only production, single feedstock treatment, and on-farm ownership and management of biogas systems. But in order to make that happen, public policy must focus on providing incentives that allow biogas to diversify production and gas utilization models. Changes in public policy may also provide socioeconomic benefits–biogas has the ability to provide a steady and stable source of energy while destroying harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the successful scale-up and development of agricultural resources to produce biogas could have a positive economic and environmental impact on rural communities throughout the Midwest.
This report’s purpose is twofold: one, to provide an overview of the current policy environment that supports biogas project development, and two, to examine additional policy mechanisms and reforms to current policies that could provide a framework for the increased development of biogas projects.