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Straus Family Creamery powered by cow gas

San Francisco Chronicle

Gabrielle Lurie / Photos by Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

By Tara Duggan

With barely a sound, the red and white International Harvester feed truck unloaded a mix of silage, barley and rice to a dozen pregnant cows, releasing a sour, grassy aroma into the foggy morning at Straus Family Creamery in Marshall. The all-electric feed truck is entirely powered by methane gas that was released by the farm’s 280 cows, or rather, their poop.

“I like to say the cows are powering the truck that feeds them,” said owner Albert Straus, whose organic dairy is perched on the edge of Tomales Bay in Marin County.

The truck, which went into service this month, had a timely debut. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending cap-and-trade regulations, AB398, part of the state’s effort to cut greenhouse gases 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Methane gas heats up the atmosphere as much as 20 times as quickly as carbon dioxide, and a big source is cow manure and burps.

All of the electricity needed to run the Straus truck, several smaller vehicles and the entire dairy farm comes from a system fueled by methane gas from the cows’ manure. (The gas in bovine belches is harder to capture.) The truck serves only one of nine dairies that produce milk for Straus Family Creamery, so it’s just a start. But Straus, whose farm has been off the grid since he installed the methane-powered energy system in 2004, hopes it can be an example to other dairies in California, and, he said, the world.

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