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Power plants, other industry could offer contracts to farmers in helping reduce carbon emissions

COLLEGE STATION Two research economists say electrical power plants and other manufacturing agencies could someday seek the aid of farmers, offering contracts to help industrial firms reduce carbon emissions. For farmers, such agreements could create an additional source of income and make carbon a traded commodity.

Dr. Bruce McCarl, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station economist, and Dr. Tanveer Butt, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University, are looking at the possibilities.

The researchers said global warming is partially due to an increase in greenhouse gases, and is released primarily by power plants, automobiles, manufacturing companies and tropical deforestation.

Both McCarl and Butt said carbon dioxide is the most dominant greenhouse gas. Since crops and trees process carbon dioxide and return it back into the soil in the form of carbon, land used by agriculture could play an important role in carbon sequestration.

Land management practices, such as tree production, the planting of grasses on rangeland, and conservation tillage, are a few methods that would help reduce levels of carbon dioxide.

"Plants can take carbon from the air and put it back into the soil, and this could be a cheaper alternative than causing cutbacks or technology change in the energy or manufacturing industries," Butt explained

Agriculture could play a key role in carbon reduction when industry, such as power plants, might face greenhouse gas emission limits and look for ways to offset levels that are above the limits.

The major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are power plants (36 percent), transportation (28 percent) and the manufacturing industry (22 percent), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There are two fundamental ways that farmers might be paid for sequestration. A subsidy program might pay farmers to retire land or alter practices. The second altern
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Contact: Dr. Tanveer Butt
TBUTT@ag.tamu.edu
979-845-3805
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
3-Mar-2004


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