A Novel Idea for Alternative Marine Fuel

A Novel Idea for Alternative Marine Fuel
Powering a boat using methane
So, what if we could tap into this cheap source of energy and power our boats with methane from the dairy? Tim Bower

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We were lucky to get some fresh company around the Lake View Inn bar this summer. It wasn’t the usual wandering tourist slumming for fun, but a new neighbor. Jim Davis arrived from California with a Ranger bass boat in tow, relocating to manage the new biodigester plant at the mega-dairy out on County Road E. My good friend Chuck Larson and I met Jim when we took the open house tour of the dairy; we had a lot of questions about cow poop, and Jim had a lot of questions about fishing. We made plans to reconvene at the Lake View, and Jim has been welcomed as a regular.

Having a fresh set of ears at the bar has been a pleasure. Jim has never heard our stories, those tales that cause wives to roll their eyes and leave the room and the dam to burst. Chuck regaled Jim with the episode wherein the flaming raccoon caused a barn full of stored boats to go up in smoke, for example.

We, in turn, had a lot of questions about the mega-dairy. Most of us grew up among dairy farmers, back when 40 cows and 120 acres could feed a family and provide a comfortable retirement. The new place milks 1,800 cows, and those cows make a lot of waste, which pumps into a lagoon the size of Lambeau Field. This stuff makes great fertilizer but can only be spread in the spring and fall, so there it sat, off-gassing tons of methane as it decomposed. Jim explained the science and technology behind the enormous biodigester. It captures most of the methane—so much methane that the gas utility ran a pipeline. Now when folks in town turn on the stove for breakfast eggs, they burn a manure byproduct.

Leave it to Chuck, of course, to come up with his own methane scheme.

“Would you agree that the fastest way to burn a gallon of gas is in your boat?” Chuck asked as he leaned over his beer. “So, what if we could tap into this cheap source of energy and power our boats with methane from the dairy? We can pay for the setup with a grant from that infrastructure legislation. Bidenomics, baby!”

“Now I think you’re talking BS, not cow poop,” Wally chirped from behind the bar. But Chuck was rolling.

“Mercury sells that little outboard that runs on propane,” Chuck said. “It can’t be that hard to make the conversion. Just add a pressure regulator or something. We can sell a kit, and then set up a compressor station at the dairy and fill tanks right from the source,” he said. “We need to get on this before Merc and Yamaha get the same idea. I’ve already got a name for our -business: AquaMootion! Get it? The logo is a Holstein at the helm of a boat.”

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After Jim explained the many reasons why this was not a workable idea, Chuck walked to a back booth to sulk with a fresh beer.

“Sorry I peed on your friend’s campfire,” Jim said, “but that was kind of a nutty idea.”

“Oh, stick around,” I said. “He’ll be back next week with a new one. Hey, did I ever tell you the story about the flaming raccoon?”

Jim rolled his eyes. I guess he’s heard that one already.

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