Man Embezzles $9M in Manure-to-Energy Scheme

Would it have worked if he had actually made good on his plans?

Well, this stinks. A Montana man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges after his scheme to turn cow manure into green energy was exposed.

From early 2014 through the end of 2019, Ray Brewer took nearly $9 million from investors by convincing them he was building anaerobic digesters on dairy farms in California and Idaho. Instead of building the machines, Brewer forged lease agreements with dairy farms, altered bank agreements to make it seem he had procured loans for the construction, and forged deals with companies to make it appear as if he had a revenue stream.

Brewer even took investors on tours of dairy farms where he said he planned to set up shop and provided them with fake construction schedules.

But Brewer never followed through on any of his promises and instead used the money to buy himself large plots of land, a custom built home and new Dodge Ram pickup trucks.

After investors caught on and filed a civil suit against Brewer, he moved to Montana and assumed a new identity. But now he’s facing multiple charges that carry maximum penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison and fines as high as $500,000.

The question is, if Brewer had actually made good on his plans, would it have worked? And the answer is, maybe? According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, anaerobic digesters use microorganisms to break down biodegradable material and turn it into methane, which can then be sold on the open market as green energy. The methane also produces Renewable Energy Credits, which can be sold to companies looking to meet green energy regulatory requirements.

But as The Counter points out, anaerobic digesters are incredibly expensive to build and maintain and sometimes don’t produce enough energy for farms to be able to sell the excess back to the grid. Also, the production process and the methane burning both make a lot of carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere.

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