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First U.S. Cow-Powered Milk Truck Debuts at World Ag Expo

Today the nation's first "cow-powered" truck debuts at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. Two trucks that normally run on diesel have been converted to run on biomethane - produced from cow manure at Hilarides Dairy. This renewable fuels model reduces global warming emissions (methane from manure), air pollution (from diesel emissions) and dependence on fossil fuels, without a food-fuel trade-off in land use. Nationally, dairy cows could power about one million vehicles with clean-burning biomethane.

"In California, the manure is plentiful, the technology is here and public-private partnerships can make this work," said Allen Dusault, Sustainable Conservation's Director of Sustainable Agriculture. "Biomethane is the only vehicle fuel that is carbon negative. The production process prevents greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere, and the resulting fuel is clean burning. Across the nation, the benefit to the climate could be as great as taking 16 million cars off the road."

Rob Hilarides, owner of Hilarides Dairy in Lindsay, Calif., said, "For us it made sense to invest in this technology. Now we can utilize the dairy's potential to power our trucks, in addition to generating electricity for our operations. This will significantly reduce our energy costs and give us some protection from volatile energy prices."

Watch Hilarides explain the process and benefits:

"This project demonstrates the pride California dairy families have in providing innovative leadership while trying to solve the energy and air pollution issues facing our Valley," said Michael Marsh, Chief Executive Officer of Western United Dairymen. "Rob Hilarides is a great example of a Western United Dairymen member who cares for the environment and is willing to take a financial risk on a new approach to providing transportation fuel."

This break-through came from a public-private partnership which aims to develop a new model for replacing diesel fuel with renewable biomethane - generated from agricultural sources such as manure and biodegradable waste products.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invested in this important project because of its significant potential to reduce diesel pollution in California's San Joaquin Valley and other comparable regions and because of the tremendous co-benefits for greenhouse gas reduction and energy security," said Kerry Drake, Associate Director, Air Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "All of the partners contributed to the process of identifying and removing obstacles to widespread use of biomethane to fuel trucks and other vehicles."

California Deputy Secretary of Energy Policy Coordination Dan Pellissier said, "Biomethane gives California a renewable fuel that is locally produced and consumed, clean burning, and carbon negative. Not only does it help California meet our targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it provides clean, renewable energy without competing for the state's fertile farmlands - which are crucial to feeding people around the world."

Converting cow manure into biomethane involves proven technologies that trap methane and turn it into clean-burning fuel. It is a straightforward process. Manure is flushed from the cows' stalls into a covered lagoon where bacteria convert the manure to biogas. The trapped gas is sent from the lagoon to a biogas upgrading system which removes impurities in the gas. Pressurized biomethane is put into the truck's fuel tank. The truck is then ready for the road.

Learn more in the definitive report, "Biomethane from Dairy Waste: A Sourcebook for the Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas in California."

Partners in the project are:

  • Hilarides Dairy
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Western United Resource Development, Inc.
  • Western United Dairymen
  • Sustainable Conservation
  • California Air Resources Board
  • CalStart
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Hilmar Cheese Company
  • Kustom Products
  • Phase 3 Renewables
  • University of California, Davis


Sustainable Conservation partners with business, agriculture and government to find practical ways that the private sector can combat climate change and protect clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The independent nonprofit organization leads powerful collaborations that produce lasting solutions and sustain the vitality of both the environment and the economy in California.

Western United Resource Development(WURD) is a non-profit organization formed by Western United Dairymen, a voluntary membership organization representing more than 60% of the milk produced in California. WURD provides educational outreach to dairy producers on energy and environmental issues.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leads the nation's environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

California Air Resources Board is one of the most progressive air pollution agencies in the country, regularly enacting laws and regulations to clean up particulate matter and smog that are later adopted by other states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Created in 1967, the ARB became the first agency in the country to tackle climate change when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of about 30 percent.


The World Ag Expo is the world's largest annual agricultural exposition, with 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, more than 1,600 exhibitors and an estimated 100,000 attendees. This week's event is the 42nd year.