And before you correct me on a persistent point of ruminant digestion, cows do fart. I have it on the authority of The New York Times. So there.
Photo credit: Cheryl Senter for The New York Times, possibly enhanced by Vladimir
HIGHGATE, Vt. — Chewing her cud on a recent sunny morning, Libby, a 1,400-pound Holstein, paused to do her part in the battle against global warming, emitting a fragrant burp.
Libby, age 6, and the 74 other dairy cows on Guy Choiniere’s farm here are at the heart of an experiment to determine whether a change in diet will help them belch less methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that has been linked to climate change. …
As of the last reading in mid-May, the methane output of Mr. Choiniere’s herd had dropped 18 percent. Meanwhile, milk production has held its own.
No s**t. Now I can enjoy that extra scoop of Cherry Garcia knowing I have done everything in my power to save the planet. Thanks, Ben and Jerry’s.
Sweetening cow breath is a matter of some urgency, climate scientists say. Cows have digestive bacteria in their stomachs that cause them to belch methane, the second-most-significant heat-trapping emission associated with global warming after carbon dioxide. Although it is far less common in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it has 20 times the heat-trapping ability.
Frank Mitloehner, a University of California, Davis, professor who places cows in air-tight tent enclosures and measures what he calls their “eruptions,” says the average cow expels — through burps mostly, but some flatulence — 200 to 400 pounds of methane a year. [emphasis added to flatulence]
Now, I want that guy’s job! (”Honey, how much methane did the cows emit today?”)
Now let’s see if I can do the math: 400 lbs of methane/cow / 0.0625 lbs of methane per standard cubic foot = 6400 scf/cow/year.
6400 scf/cow/year * 400,000,000 cows, just in the U.S. = 2.6 trillion cubic feet of atmospheric methane per year.
Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas. The country uses something on the order of 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year as fuel. Right now, all that bovine methane escapes to the atmosphere as CH4, rather than being burned and converted to less-harmful CO2 and H2O, the way G_d intended. (Remember that methane gas has 22 times the greenhouse impact of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide.)It sounds like the money that we spend controlling greenhouse gases needs to be directed at raising cattle indoors, where their emissions can be trapped and used as fuel. Now, we’re talking cap-and-trade!
Are we really supposed to take these “climate scientists” seriously?