Climate Change

Climate Change & Farm Equipment

As the world becomes more aware of and concerned about climate change, the agricultural equipment manufacturers who want to transform citizens into customers have become concerned, as well. Of the Big Four manufacturers – John Deere, CNH, AGCO, and Claas – Deere has announced the most innovations to help offset greenhouse gas emissions.

John Deere’s engine division, for example, claims to be a leader in reducing diesel engine emissions on it full line of engines from 40 to 600 horsepower. For engines of 74 HP or above, Deere has added “after treatment” systems to its PowerTech Plus engine technologies, which include variable geometry turbocharging, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, high-pressure fuel systems, four valve cylinder heads, and electronic controls. Smaller engines already meet the U.S. government’s Interim Tier 4 emissions requirements.

Several companies are supporting the production and use of soy biodiesel fuels in their tractors, combines and other vehicles. And all support ethanol production and use.

There are savings in greenhouse gases to be had in the actual manufacturing of agricultural machines. While these plants are large consumers of energy, most companies are working to reduce their energy use for simple economic reasons.

Again, using John Deere as an example, the company has been tracking their energy use since 1972, and in 2003 began tracking the production of greenhouse gases by all of their factories worldwide. They claim to have reduced their energy use by 63 percent between 1972 and 2006.

The company has replaced traditional lighting with efficient fluorescent bulbs. They’ve redesigned or built new plants with greater energy efficiency. In Germany, they installed photovoltaic cells to turn sunlight into energy. One solar panel there covers 3,940 square feet and is thought to be the largest of its type in Germany. New paint systems use new formulations and water curtains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 1,500 tons annually in two plants. The company is using recycled or renewable materials, like corn- or soy-based plastics for components on combines and some tractors.

All of the manufacturers are supporting new farming techniques – like conservation- or no-till farming, micro or drip irrigation systems – by building the machines needed to implement these conservation techniques.

Also, John Deere has branched out beyond its usual products to support wind energy. In 2005, they started two subsidiaries – John Deere Renewables, LLC, and John Deere Wind Energy – to invest in and provide “value-added services” for wind project development. Deere will help developers plan their projects, procure the wind turbine technology, operate the systems, and find long term debt and equity investments. In 2010, they said they have 27 wind farms in operation or under construction in six states with more than 600 megawatts of capacity.

Beyond individual private companies, the federal government is getting into the act, as well. Both the 2002 and the 2007 Farm Bills included a program known as REAP, the Rural Energy for America Program.

Under REAP between 2003 and 2008, the USDA awarded over $140 million in grants and $97 million in loan guarantees to 2,034 projects in 50 states. REAP financed rural energy projects such as wind turbine farms, anaerobic digesters turning livestock manure into energy, ethanol and biodiesel production facilities, solar electric systems and energy efficiency improvements at farms and small businesses.

Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2009. A partial bibliography of sources is here.

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