Climate Action Reserve Backs Fertilizer Offsets

By Published On: June 29, 2012

If the California Air Resources Board consents, the state’s power industry soon may be able to meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements by paying corn farmers in North Central states to reduce use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. That possibility moved a step closer to reality June 27 when the Climate Action Reserve--a non-profit company that fashions so-called offset protocols which later can be adopted by the Air Board and other regulatory authorities--approved its new “Nitrogen Management Protocol Version 1.0.” It’s based on research conducted jointly by the Electric Power Research Institute and Michigan State University. Nitrogen fertilizer use produces 3.1 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to about 205 million tons/year of carbon dioxide, according to Derik Broekhoff, Climate Action Reserve vice president. After being applied, the fertilizer causes emissions to the atmosphere of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. Under the protocol, North Central corn farmers who reduce their use of fertilizer below a historical usage rate would earn greenhouse gas reduction credits. Then, power generators and other greenhouse gas emitters in California and Quebec could buy them to meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements. Broekhoff said the Reserve envisions that offset aggregation companies would enlist farmers to participate in projects and do all the paperwork required to verify fertilizer usage reductions. Reserve board members voiced hope that fertilizer reduction project offsets would be lucrative enough to attract such aggregators. Reserve officials voiced hope that small federal grants for initial pilot projects would pave the way for wide usage of the offset protocol. In other action, the Reserve updated its offset protocol for projects that reduce emissions of gases used in refrigerators and air conditioners. They both deplete stratospheric ozone and cause global warming. Reserve chair Linda Adams said the protocol has been the organization’s most popular method so far for generating greenhouse gas offset credits.

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