US utility boosts green farming to offset emissions

A United States utility company is planning to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by supporting the expansion of farming methods that maximise carbon sequestration in soils.

Under an agreement with the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association, (PNDSA) the Entergy Corporation, reported to be the first US utility to publicly volunteer to take action to stabilise its domestic greenhouse gas emissions, would receive credit for carbon dioxide and emissions reductions achieved through direct seed agriculture.

Yolanda Pollard of Entergy told edie that her company will receive CO2 ‘Offset Credits’ from the growers equivalent to the amount of carbon stored in the soil using direct seed methods. Each year Entergy will retire ‘Offset Credits’ received from the growers to compensate for CO2 emissions from its fossil fuelled power plants. Over the 10-year period of the contract, the PNDSA growers will commit sufficient acreage using direct seed methods so that approximately 30,000 CO2 offset credits will be created and transferred to Entergy.

Entergy will not disclose the specific funding involved in the direct seeding initiative, however Pollard stated that in May 2001, the company established its voluntary ‘Environmental Initiatives Fund’. This has committed US$25 million over the next five years to internal and external projects that will stabilise its greenhouse gas emissions at 2000 levels through 2005.

Entergy is looking to achieve 80% of its targeted CO2 emission reductions by making improvements to existing power plants and through reductions from other internal operations. This includes “seriously investigating clean coal technologies and other advanced, environmentally clean generation

methods”, added Pollard.

Direct seed techniques use ‘no-till’ direct injection methods to cultivate soils, thereby minimising the disturbance of topsoil. The aim is to avoid releasing the carbon sequestered in the soil so that it does not become oxidised and released into the atmosphere. As fewer tillage operations are required with the approach, the emissions associated with operating conventional farm equipment are also reported to be significantly lower.

The PNDSA wants to increase direct seed acreage in the Pacific Northwest to two million acres in the next five years, and reports significantly increased interest amongst the farm community since the late 1990s. It is also calling for agriculture to be an eligible carbon sink with recognition of farm practices that increase carbon storage capacity to be considered a creditable and tradable means of emissions reduction. It assures its membership that all aspects of carbon credit trading are being explored to gain the greatest benefit from, and avoids potential pitfalls of, a young market.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie