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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #295 - Energy Alternatives: Anaerobic digestion misguided by agribusiness (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 19 Jun 2019 06:55:43 +0300

Government policy for the development of anaerobic digestion leads to the creation of large units. This policy will create serious environmental problems and will only accentuate the desertification of the countryside in favor of an ever increasing concentration of farms. ---- In the January 2019 issue of Alternative Libertaire we wrote: " The development of bio-methane production on farms seems much more promising. It allows recovers waste to produce both renewable energy and organic fertilizer " . If this remains valid, methanization industrial projects characterized by gigantic installations and technical choices to reduce costs to the maximum, result in serious damage to the environment.
Thus the Gramat methanizer (Lot) - which produces methane, converted into electricity and heat - is authorized to process up to 57,000 tonnes of agro-industrial waste per year: duck manure from the big neighboring agricultural cooperative La Quercynoise - 5,000 farmers ; remains of slaughterhouses ; edible fats ; scrap manufacturing of prepared meals ...

In 2018, he spewed nearly 44,000 tonnes of raw liquid digestate. This kind of mud is then spread on the farmers' plots of the cooperative. 2,000 hectares were sprayed with this kind of mud, presented as a " green fertilizer ". Ultimately 4,500 hectares will be affected.

Digestate, a poison for soils
The technical choice of the Gramat methanizer for spreading raw liquid digestate is a big problem, while another option, composting - certainly more expensive - is possible. This is a disaster for the highly fissured limestone soils of the region and this leads to an intensification of the pollution of groundwater already soiled by intensive agriculture.

Let's not talk about the nauseating stench of spraying, a problem far from being minor, since it led the MP Aurélien Pradié (LR), at the end of December 2018, to question the government on these olfactory pollutions. The digestate is very volatile - hence the problem of odors - and in contact with the air creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than CO2.

Finally, the digestate is not harmless for the lands that receive it: an apiculturist has, for example, noted, since the spreading of this digestate, a hecatomb in his hives and saw " earthworms decomposed, all white, to the surface " [1]of the meadows spread.

Land samples were analyzed by the microbiological analysis laboratory of soil specialists Lydia and Claude Bourguignon. The researchers' report shows that after spreading digestate, the biological state of the soil has deteriorated [2]. In the digestate, heavy metals were found in shambles.

In January 2018, the National Health Security Agency (ANSES) refused approval of digestate extracted from another methanizer, in Villeneuve-sur-Lot (Lot-et-Garonne) after highlighting bacteriological contamination. Because, of course, the digester is a bath of bacteria. A hygienisation phase - a one-hour heating period above 70 ° C - would allow cleaning of the digestate, but the most used systems stop at 40 ° C.

Mega-methanization to reshuffle cards
The controversy over large methanizers does not stop with health and ecological issues. Thus, a methanizer with a capacity of 1.2 MW was inaugurated in June 2018 in Montauban-de-Bretagne, 35 km from Rennes. This installation is fed by the effluents of about 15 neighboring farms. Once the project was completed, an application for authorization to establish a breeding of 144,000 chickens was filed and accepted. The digester feed is an integral part of the farm's business model. This farm was therefore obviously created to feed the digester.

This reversal of logic had already been denounced in the emblematic case of the factory farm of the thousand cows. Thanks to subsidies and the guaranteed price for the purchase of gas, methanisation had become the main activity, starting from cattle effluents. Milk production became a secondary activity. With anaerobic digestion, the selling prices of pigs and milk are pulled down, below the cost price. This will accelerate the disappearance of the most fragile farms and increase the concentration of others.

On December 20, 2018, the Confédération paysanne invaded a site in the Sarthe where a methanizer must be established [3]. The union denounced " the excesses of anaerobic digestion and an industrial model that monopolize land, wasting production that only serves to feed methanizers and not to feed animals . " He claims " an anaerobic digestion which is part of a project that remunerates peasants, allows them to live their trade, without the need to grab land " .

Especially since government ambitions in the field are high. The project is to increase to 10% by 2030 the share of total gas consumption in France from livestock, while it is only 0.25% today. But it is not enough to inject animal dung for the digester to work. He also needs " intermediate " crops , injected into the digester. According to the calculations of the " National scientific collective for a methanisation reasoned " (CSNM), it would be necessary to dedicate 100% of the agricultural surface of three departments to the cultivation of intermediate grains to reach this objective [4].

Despite the many problems raised, the most critical actors are also, for some, optimistic. This is the case for Daniel Chateigner, a physics researcher at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure (ENS) of Caen engineers and member of the CSNM. "The more I dig into this question of anaerobic digestion, the more I tell myself that we must take advantage of it, but only if we use real waste. "

Jacques Dubart (AL Nantes)

[1] The World of January 30, 2019.

[2] Conference of Lydia and Claude Bourguignon, September 7, 2018 in Capdenac.

[3] Via Campesina of 27 December 2018

[4] " Anaerobic digestion, the gas plant that seduces big farmers ", Reporterre, January 23, 2019.

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