Master of Environmental Management students Jamal Adil and Brenda Warger worked on a Master's Project (MP) proposing ways to target swift greenhouse gas emissions reductions on North Carolina hog farms, the state's most prominent livestock product. The project, "Incentivizing Methane Capture to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emission," evaluated capture-and-flare alongside waste-to-energy projects and proposes a policy recommendation to initiate reductions as quickly as possible while noting the significant barriers to progress, including economic constraints and the frayed relationship between large hog farming companies and neighboring communities. The research was funded by Duke Energy via the Research Triangle Institute.

Duke Environment recently corresponded with Adil and Warger to discuss the key findings of their MP and what they learned from the experience.

What are the key findings of your MP?

Our Master’s Project found that there may be a significant emissions reduction potential that North Carolina is not properly incentivizing. By implementing methane capture and flare equipment, North Carolina hog farms could collectively reduce 5.73 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in methane. This would take the state about 28% of the way towards meeting its Clean Energy Plan goal of reducing electric power sector emissions by 70% below 2005 levels by 2030. This huge abatement potential was under the scenario where swift emissions reductions were prioritized, as opposed to energy production. It’s important to note, however, that unless the lagoon-and-sprayfield system is overhauled, virtually no emissions reduction or waste-to-energy initiatives would adequately improve the extreme odor conditions and public health risks currently suffered by neighboring hog farming communities, which sorely need to be addressed.

How will having practical work experience in this project help you in your career?

By struggling through potential solutions or recommendations to this complex problem, we gained a level of command in this issue area as well as applicable data and policy analysis skills.

What drew you to this project/client?

As Energy and Economics & Policy concentration students, we were drawn to this issue because of its dynamic energy, climate, justice, and policy implications.

The Master’s Project combines the academic rigor of a thesis with the practical experience of an internship, allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to projects that tackle real-world environmental challenges.