Please read and thanks again.video_assignment.docx
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Prepare to connect the information presented in this video to the week’s
assessments, the readings, real life, and our course discussions. Post a 300 word
review of the video tying in course information and your own commentary.
In the event the video is unavailable, I have attached the transcript.
Speakers: Narrator, Li Jingming, Xie Oi Shun, Liu Chun Xian, Xieqi Shun, Li Xia, Jiang Gui Mi,
Zhou Ze En, Thomas Rath, Lu Gui Hong, Huang Bingquan, Zhang Mingpei
China’s environment has been affected in the wake of two decades of economic
And many farmers have been left behind in a growing gulf separating rich and
poor. Now the central government hopes to reduce both rural discontent and
greenhouse gas levels with one act—by getting farmers to turn animal manure
Guangxi province in Southern China. Busy farms like this are evidence of the
country’s growing prosperity and increasing demand for meat.
It’s evidence too of a growing threat posed by one of the world’s most potent
greenhouse gases. Over the next year this sow and her piglets will, according to
one estimate, produce the equivalent of 9 tons of carbon dioxide through the
methane generated by their droppings.
Among human activities, agriculture is the largest producer of methane. And
China is the world’s largest agricultural producer. A third of the world’s farmers,
more than 210 million farm families, live here. Many own just one or two animals
but, when added together, they amount to more than 9 billion cows, pigs and
chickens, which according to China’s Ministry of Agriculture, generate more than
3 billion tons of manure each year. In many parts of the world, animal waste is
left to decompose in yards, sending more methane into the atmosphere. But
what if all that methane could be turned into fuel? What impact would that have
on the environment and on the lives of poor farmers?
Those who live in the countryside have access to half the energy supplies made
available to city dwellers. Meanwhile in rural areas there is a huge volume of
bioenergy that could be used. So what we are trying to do is convert that human
and animal waste into biofuel.
The vast majority of farmers who live in Guangxi province don’t earn enough to
pay for fuel or electricity—if they’re lucky enough to be connected to the power
grid in the first place. Yet this place is at the forefront of a renewable energy
revolution unlike any other in the world.
Six months ago Xie Oi Shun began producing his own fuel, thanks to some help
from a government project supported by the International Fund for Agricultural
Development or IFAD, a U.N. agency working in the province to adapt
technology to the needs of poor farmers.
The system is very simple. All the waste from the animals is routed through a
canal behind the stable, even human waste from this toilet.
It all flows into a biogas digester, a large tank buried underground. The waste
comes in here and as it ferments inside the gas builds up and travels back out
through this tube. You can see the tube up there—
—it takes the gas into the house where we use it to cook.
We used to cook with wood. The smoke made my eyes tear and burn and I
always coughed. The children were often sick and had to go to the clinic, which
was expensive. Now that we’re cooking with biogas things are much better.
Although burning methane produces some residual carbon dioxide, not burning it
is believed to be 22 times more damaging to the atmosphere. In capturing and
using methane as fuel for cooking and lighting, Xieqi is actually reducing its
global warming effect. It’s a simple solution that many countries are now applying
but none as widely as China. As waste decomposes inside Xieqi’s new biogas
digester, he’s left with another fuel—an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen.
For most of the last 6 months, Xieqi has been pouring the fertilizer over his
Since applying the fertilizer to my cucumber plants, they’ve grown much bigger
than before, when I used chemicals. They even taste better.
Although biogas technology has been used in China for nearly 50 years, it has
only recently become a regular feature on Chinese farms. The reason? Poverty.
Despite the country’s rapidly expanding economy, a growing income gap exists
between city and country, driving hundreds of millions of farmers from their fields
in search of a better life. Now one of the ways the central government is trying to
make rural life more appealing is by offering farmers cash incentives to build
biogas digesters so that they can produce their own fuel cheaply.
A biogas tank can produce about 400 cubic meters of biogas. Just 1 cubic meter
of biogas can meet the daily energy needs of rural households, mainly for
cooking three meals. So for poor farmers, biogas digesters turn waste into
Much of what makes life hard and farmers poor is often related in one way or
another to a lack of energy, energy for cooking and lighting homes, energy to fuel
new enterprises or to ease the burden of daily living. Instead, farmers like Pan
Long Jinging, a member of China’s Yao ethnic minority, spends as much as three
hours a day traveling into the forest to collect wood just to cook meals.
She has no other choice. Although electricity is available in her village, it is not
reliable. And, even if it were, she hasn’t the money to pay for it.
If she and her family want to eat, they need wood to burn.
Wood is among the primary sources of fuel used by most Chinese farmers.
Burning wood not only sends more greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and soot into
the atmosphere, but the demand for wood is contributing to China’s rapid
deforestation, a problem the government in Guangxi is now trying to get under
In many of the forests around our village the government forbids us to cut trees.
My wife must spend more and more time traveling to find wood for fuel.
Increasingly the government is putting pressure on farmers to apply good
Protecting the forest is paramount. Zhou Ze En is a forest guard. Each day he
patrols the forests around his community to ensure that no one has been cutting
I walk around the forest to check, to find if there are any people who are cutting
trees. If I find the thieves I will catch him and send him to the local forest police
But Zhou is catching fewer thieves these days. The forest he patrols happens to
be in the same region where the government and IFAD have been promoting
biogas production among the poorest farmers. As a result, IFAD estimates that 7
and a half hectares of trees are now saved each year. But more importantly,
saving trees is saving farmers time, according to Thomas Rath.
Usually women here have to collect fuel wood every day 2 or 3 hours. So they
don’t have to do that if they have biogas. Then this time they can devote to
improving their literacy, their technical skills, business skills, they can do then
economic activities at home and generate income.
For many poor farmers, one of the rewards of producing biogas has been the
free time it gives them, because with time they can take steps to change their
Since Liu Chun Xian’s family began producing biogas on their farm 6 months
ago, she no longer spends 3 hours a day collecting wood for cooking. Instead,
she’s taken training that’s helped her make improvements to the family’s tea
farm, which now earns more money.
Thousands of poor farmers across the province have done the same,
contributing to a drop in rural poverty.
This project started in 2001 and 3 years later we could see that overall the
households have moved up from poverty to low income and even out of poverty.
After three years we observed already that about 10% had already moved
on, so about 20,000 households.
Few places illustrate the economic impact that biogas production is having on
China’s farmers as this place—the village of Fada. Lu Gui Hong is the village
mayor. His community has become a model of what the government envisions is
the future for China’s small farmers.
Just a few years ago the village was very poor. But since the government project
brought us biogas technology and helped us develop our crops, people have
been doing much better. Some of the farmers are so rich they are building new
houses like that.
Throughout Fada people are busy building biogas digesters. Each one costs
about 260 U.S. dollars, of which the government pays half. By the end of the year
all 73 households here will be equipped to produce their own biogas fuel. It’s an
example of what the Chinese government, in its 11th five-year economic plan,
refers to as a new socialist village—environmentally sustainable, socially
harmonious, and prosperous.
Farmers used to spend a lot of time collecting wood. As you can imagine it
wasted a lot of time. Since we constructed biogas digesters, farmers have a lot of
time to find other ways of earning money. For example, in my village we now
grow tobacco and organic tea.
In the last 5 years, with more time to spend improving crops, farmers in Fada
have increased tea production from 400 kilos to 2 and a half kilos a day. At the
same time, average income in the village has quadrupled to just over 1 U.S.
dollar per day. The rise is significant in a country where the extreme poverty line
sits at 26 U.S. cents per day.
In the next few years, we hope to pull down all the old houses and build new
We hope to continue to improve living conditions and to make the environment
greener and people’s lives richer. In 20 years from now, you won’t see any wood
smoke at all coming out of houses here.
Nanning is Guangxi’s capital and an example of how much China’s booming
economy is changing the landscape. New building construction crowds the city’s
skyline. On the ground new cars crowd lanes once occupied by bicycles. After
two decades of rapid growth, China has become the world’s second largest
energy consumer after the United States. By 2020, demand is, according to
some estimates, expected to double and the central government is now on a
frantic search for more renewable energy options.
Energy shortages are the greatest challenge we face in Guangxi. Coal, petrol,
and electricity are all in short supply. It’s for that reason we are now trying to use
bioenergy to meet the daily energy needs of all rural communities.
But what if farmers producing biogas could also help growing cities meet their
energy needs? The Dong Yuan Winery, a privately owned farm in Guangxi, is
planning to do just that. Huang Bingquan, owner and general manager, says he
began producing biogas in an attempt to make his rice wine factory more
Our wine factory produced a lot of organic waste, so we thought a smart way to
get rid of it would be to use it as animal feed. But then the animal waste began to
pile up, so we came up with the idea of producing biogas.
Today waste from the farm’s animals, which include 1000 head of cattle, flows
into 27 large biogas digesters.
Together they produce about 2000 cubic metres of gas each day. Some of it is
used to cook lunch for Dong Yuan’s 300 staff. But most of it is used for another
purpose. It’s being used to produce electricity. Costing about 162,000 U.S.
dollars, engineers here built the first biogas-fueled electric generator in the
province. Capable of producing as much as 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity
each year, Huang Bingquan estimates he will have paid off his initial investment
in just over 2 years through energy cost savings.
The biogas pits we built solved the pollution problem we had from the wine
It provided fuel for our staff canteen, electricity for our factory operation and
helped improve the surrounding environment in our community. As a result, our
costs have dropped and our profits are higher.
But Huang thinks his profits can be even higher. Over the next few years he’ll be
adding 10,000 head of cattle and wants to generate enough electricity to sell to
I really think this is a good model. You could think of us as a pollution treatment
factory that provides energy, protects the environment, and offers employment.
Imagine thousands of large farms with biogas-fuelled generators producing
electricity for millions of people. That’s the sort of future that the head of China’s
biogas society hopes for.
I am confident that more and more large farms will use biogas to generate
electricity for urban and rural residents. I’m sure of it. And all this production will
ease local energy scarcities and broaden the prospects for biogas development
By 2020, China’s central government wants 15% of the country’s energy
consumption to come from renewable sources like biogas and even the poorest
farmers are being called upon to help reach the goal. In the village of Fada,
Mayor Lu Gui Hong welcomes a group of farmers bussed in from a nearby
The government is promoting Fada’s success as a new socialist village and
educational tours like this are instrumental in encouraging more farmers to build
biogas digesters. In Guangxi, there are now 3 million biogas tanks in operation,
according to the government, making the province the largest producer of biogas
in China, if not the world. As each one routes animal and human waste into
biogas digesters they not only prevent vast amounts of methane from escaping
into the atmosphere but an estimated 8 million tons of standard coal and 13
million tons of firewood from being burned each year, according to IFAD.
Forest coverage in Guangxi is now 70%, which is ranked ahead of all provinces
in China. When you visit Guangxi you see trees, green mountains, and clean
rivers, flowers, and birds everywhere. Guangxi is now a beautiful province and
biogas has contributed foremost to this.
As the rainy season begins in West Guangxi, Liu Chun Xian no longer worries
about finding dry wood or venturing out in the bad weather.
China’s central government wants to have 50 million households—a population
the size of France and Germany producing biogas by the end of the decade. It’s
hard to predict what impact so many farmers might have in reducing China’s
greenhouse gas emissions or in generating energy but, for rural families like this
one, it’s proof of what a simple technology can do to improve lives.
To find out more about this film or to comment, visit tve.org/earthreport.
[End of audio]
From “Gas, Gas, Gas” [Television series episode], in Earth Report, 2008, United Kingdom: TVE.
Copyright 1995–2012 by Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Pearson Prentice Hall. Adapted
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