Saving The World With Chickens

Dung from chickens is turning into a green energy source in rural China. The De Qing Yuan farm outside Beijing is starting up a "biogas digester"—a plant that processes 192 metric tons of droppings a day from 3 million chickens and turns out electricity. The farm will get $1 million a year selling the power to the national grid.

The plant is part of a push by Beijing to make use of dung that is piling up in farms (and spilling over into villages and lakes). Dung is a climate issue because it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Biogas plants, however, cook the dung in water to release the methane, which is then used to drive generators. The only byproducts are heat and solid waste that can be used as fertilizer. China has been using small biogas plants for decades, but now Beijing plans to install 4,700 big farm-based digesters by 2010, and to more than double the number of households that run on biogas from 18 million to 40 million. Last year the government increased annual subsidies for rural biogas development to $338 million from $135 million.