Agriculture

Actor looks at San Joaquin Valley's manure and sees energy

John O'Hurley played J. Peterman, the guy on "Seinfeld" who put out a clothing catalog filled with elaborate prose.

So, what's the actor up to lately? Scouting the nation for manure.

O'Hurley is a partner in Energy-Inc., a Las-Vegas-based company that turns waste from livestock and other sources into energy.

He said the dairy and poultry industries of the Northern San Joaquin Valley could be prime sources of the raw material, though no specific projects have emerged here for the company.

"It's not just a green technology," O'Hurley said by phone from Los Angeles last week. "It actually just makes good business sense. Basically, the liability of the agricultural waste is now an asset."

Manure-based energy is nothing new. Several dairy farms in California and beyond have systems that extract methane from manure and burn it to produce electricity and heat.

What O'Hurley brings, along with a commitment to renewable energy, is celebrity. He is the host of "Family Feud" and competed in the first season of "Dancing With the Stars." He tours with the musicals "Chicago," which played in Sacramento last month, and "Spamalot."

In February, O'Hurley was paired with pro golfer Matt Bettencourt, a Modesto native, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

And in a life-imitates-art twist, O'Hurley is a partner in the J. Peterman Co., founded by the man he lampooned on "Seinfeld."

O'Hurley contacted The Bee mainly to talk about Energy-Inc.'s involvement in a manure-to-energy project at a 3,000-hog farm in North Carolina. It will help that industry deal with its serious pollution concerns, he said.

"This takes away the stench," he said. "It takes away everything. Nothing ever leaves the closed environment of the hog farm."

The company also seeks to produce energy from tires and from decaying trash in landfills, among other sources. The process results in "near zero emissions," O'Hurley said.

As he talked, he sounded more like a venture capitalist than the bombastic character he played on the '90's sitcom.

Yet he offered a hint of how Peterman might imagine energy from manure, "as he was standing in the amber waters of the River Ganges, saying 'Boy, this stuff smells.' "

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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