Cow Burps Produce One-Quarter Of Methane In US Every Year

One contributor to global warming — bigger than coal mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants — is being left out of efforts by the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Cow burps.

Belching from the nation's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.

In part because of an adept farm lobby campaign that equates government regulation with a cow tax, the gas that farm animals pass is exempt from legislation being considered by Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA under President Barack Obama has said it has no plans to regulate the gas, even though the agency recently included methane among six greenhouse gases it believes are endangering human health and welfare.

The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.

"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."

Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm groups that they have no intention of regulating cows. That effort, however, has done little to ease the concern of farmers and their advocates in Congress about the toll that regulating greenhouse gases will have on agriculture.

Lawmakers and farm groups are now pressing for the climate legislation to guarantee that farmers will be compensated for taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases. That could lead to farmers getting paid if their cows pass less gas.

Research has shown that changing cattle diet and boosting efficiency — such as producing the same amount of milk and beef from a smaller herd — can result in less gas, according Frank M. Mitloehner, an associate professor at the University of California at Davis, who has studied livestock gas for 15 years.

"I don't think livestock should be ignored. Every industry has to play their role," Mitloehner said. But laws designed to reduce emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes won't work with cattle, which can't be fitted with pollution control devices, Mitloehner said.

"The belching is very hard to collect," he said. "You cannot capture these gases."

The climate bill specifically excludes enteric fermentation — the fancy term for the gas created by digestion and expelled largely by burping — from the limit it would place on greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation directs the EPA not to include it among the various sources that could be subject to new performance standards.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has called rumors of the cow tax "ridiculous notions" and a "distraction."

On Thursday, Rep. Todd Tihart, R-Kan., successfully added an amendment to the spending bill that covers the EPA to block the agency from including biological processes of livestock — including the release of methane — as part of regulating greenhouse gases.

House aides and EPA officials say that controlling such emissions is unworkable. Cow burps make up about 2 percent of all the climate-altering pollution in the U.S.

But allies of farmers in Congress say the reluctance to step in the cow tax debate has a lot to do with the outcry from the agriculture industry and moderate Democrats from rural states whose votes are needed to pass the bill.

"I think they realized that if you are a Democrat in an agricultural state, a red state, that this is radioactive and I think that is why they have tried scrupulously to reaffirm that they don't have any intention of doing this," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. He is sponsoring a bill that would bar the EPA from requiring farmers to get permits for cattle burps.

Thune, whose state is home to a half-million cattle, first heard about the cow tax at a South Dakota Cattlemen Association's conference in early December. Within weeks he introduced his bill and recruited support from New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, whose state boasts three times more cows.

The origins of the cow tax can be traced to last July, when President George W. Bush's EPA released documents outlining how the Clean Air Act could regulate greenhouse gases.

Even though the Bush administration had no intention of using the law, farm groups seized on a single paragraph deep in the comments from various federal agencies. The Agriculture Department warned that if EPA decided to regulate agricultural sources of greenhouse gases, numerous farms would face costly and time-consuming process to acquire permits for barnyard burping.

The Farm Bureau quickly did the math and figured farms would have to pay about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog to purchase permits for emissions.

The cow tax was born.

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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 26, 2009 at 03:01 PM
    Dwayne, next it be human flatulence which will put Mexican restaurants out of buisness. They will have to increase a Special tax on broccoli and pork and beans. Haven't you noticed they took the fire cook out scene in Blazing Saddles out. That was politically incorrect to show. This is just some of that change they want, wind and solar, no nuclear but they want energy that won't power America, yep thats change. By the way, no drilling, we will just buy from other countries like we are doing now. If wind and solar are so great, why is there no public utilty putting them in? Answer, they cannot make a dime off them unless they burn their customers for a new bill. But this is being shoved down our throats as change. Well, more of that changey hopey thing coming. Change in pricing and hope it doesn't go up any more.
  • by Dwayne Location: Greenville on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:19 PM
    Global warming is a scientific hoax and now the morons want to tax bovine flatulence. Bright crew in Washington huh?
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:29 AM
    Derek, permafrost, yes, things can sink but once encapsulated in ice, well, it ain't sinking anymore. The ice there is hundreds of feet thick and the phenomenon you refer to would account for maybe 10 feet. The story of the P-38s is interresting since they were able to piece together a plane that was 268 feet under the ice.
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:24 PM
    Well, I did see the effects of permafrost, I saw railroad tracks and ballast sink into it during the beginning of summer. If seeing is believing, then so be it. But you and me are on the same page in regards to Gore, brother. Talking about not practicing what you preach.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 24, 2009 at 04:42 PM
    May qui! However, this argument is settled no mater how much you leader tells you so. That permafrost thing is you AC running, thats why its cool. An argument is an argument, facts on weather? Well, I can get a grant to prove panty hose causes cancer and prove it viable. Al Gore, who uses more energy and causes more of your global warming myth, uses more C02 than many house holds. If he really believed in his own direction, don't you think he would live in a cave with a stick with a fire at the end. Well provided the stick wasn't from a Redwood.
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Jun 24, 2009 at 09:25 AM
    OSOC - more than one side to every argument, nez pa?
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Jun 23, 2009 at 06:15 PM
    OSOC - I have no idea what you are referring to as the Shadow Party...... like you I am university educated and fully capable of researching on my own. Do I intimidate you to the point where you have to associate me with radicals because you can't handle someone debating you? I enjoy it, don't you? I have no problems with you, I like our debates, thats why I choose to question you.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 23, 2009 at 04:24 PM
    C3, it comes down to facts. As an engineer you cannot baffle me without them. When I caught the story of the planes in Greenland it totally dissproved any consideration of global warming. Realizing Al Gore was behind it doesn't take much thought as to why it is pushed. I remember global cooling being shoved on us. Then when I got to college and studied physics, I realized, how can anyone with a snane mind make such a prediction. Weather is more complicated than a nuclear bomb. If you were to take a stand on it, good luck, impossible to calculate. So in NC when we have gotten cooler over the last several years, well, even terd polish won't shine this one up. Everything Derek posts is right out of the "Shadow Party" handbook. You should go learn what they are preaching. They own Obama and they own his thoughts. Then the denial on his part comes in. We have our own beliefs and own thoughts and no one will stiffle us. I thank you for your posts and facts. Take care, OSOC.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 23, 2009 at 06:43 AM
    A simple test you can do at home. Freeze a small metal object in an icecube. Preferably, in the middle. Keep it frozen for years and see if it sinks. After doing a thermal calculation on a brown colored airplane, it should have been 3 feet under the snow and ice. This was based on no light getting to it. Since ice is more dense than an aircraft, it should have been just the way it was when it landed in the 40s. So, I conclude that ice build up in Greenland is imense since that time.
  • by CCC Location: Greenville on Jun 23, 2009 at 06:11 AM
    Bingo!!! You looked something up and accepted the definition as fact and used it to make a point. So tell me, when obvious facts about the current admin. are presented to you and others from CREDIBLE sources(not just Fox), you blow them off as lies or refuse to accept them, why? That ranks right up there with the freeze/thaw phenomenon.

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