How does one go about reducing cow flatulence?

As part of its plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama administration is targeting the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions in their operations.

This comes despite falling methane emission levels across the economy since 1990.

The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25 percent by 2020. Although U.S. agriculture only accounts for about 9 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it makes up a sizeable portion of methane emissions — which is a very potent greenhouse gas.

Some of these methane emissions come from cow flatulence, exhaling and belching — other livestock animals release methane as well.

“Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence,” according to How Stuff Works. “Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day… while others say it’s up to 500 liters… a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.”

Just how do you reduce methane emissions from cattle, other than reducing the number of cattle in the country? The EPA talks about “new technology” and “methane capture”. I’m going to invest in Beano stock, me.

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More on the Renewable Fuel Standard

I haven’t been eager to talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard; I have friends who are farmers, I come from a family of farmers (although none are in the business anymore), and, if I had to choose any other occupation, I would like to farm.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is an EPA requirement that fuel sold in the United States include an increasing amount of  “renewable fuels”, ethanol, cellulosic alcohol (methyl alcohol), and biodiesel. From 9 billion gallons in 2008, the volume of renewable fuel is supposed to increase to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Production of cellulose-based fuel and biodiesel has proven unprofitable and unacheivable. Production of ethanol, mostly from corn, has given a huge boost to corn prices, causing farmers to shift from production of other crops to corn.

Because gasoline sales have leveled off (recession, improving fuel mileage), we have reached a “blend wall”; to continue meeting RFS requirements, refineries would have to blend more than 10% ethanol in highway fuel. This has proven to be damaging to engines, so the EPA has proposed to alter the requirements downward.

The ethanol industry is not happy, and the governors of 5 midwestern states have written a letter to the President.

In a joint letter to the president, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard argue in defense of the ethanol standard. The letter stresses the importance of ethanol as it diversifies America’s energy portfolio, gives consumers choices at the pump, supports economic development in rural communities and reduces harmful emissions across the nation.

Providing evidence of their claims, the governors point to an Iowa State University estimate that says “corn prices alone could drop 19 cents per bushel based on the proposed rule, which could bring corn prices below the cost of production for many farmers. The proposed EPA rule could also cause a ripple effect on agribusiness, our communities, and the entire economy.” …

“Specifically, we hope that you will encourage the EPA to increase the biodiesel volume to reflect current production levels, modify the cellulosic target to match production expectations, and reinstate the statutory conventional renewable fuel target since there is clearly no domestic supply shortage.” …

In other words, “Revising the rule will hurt a wealthy constituency, and we can’t have the free market determining the price of corn.” Keep in mind, 4 out of 5 of these governors are Republican.

The government needs to get out of the practice of subsidizing businesses of any kind. I am sure these governors would have denounced the Solyndra debacle, but “don’t mess with my corporate welfare!”

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