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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Environmental Control of Flatulence...

I have become quite concerned about the pollution that is being generated by cattle. I did a search on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website and had a difficult time trying to find information on the subject. Most of my searches resulted in zero returns. That is until I changed my query. When you type in “cattle emissions” you will get a page full of results. It was then that I realized that I would have to change my thought processes to a more politically correct point of view in order to research this subject. By the way, political correctness is not one of my strong suits.

The EPA provides several studies on “Methane Emissions from Enteric Fermentation”. It seems that in 1997, livestock contributed 19% to the overall methane emissions in the United States through enteric fermentation while landfills contributed 37%. From what I gather, decomposition, whether it is from the digestion of food or a rotting banana peel, creates over half of the methane gas in the U.S.

While the government study does recognize (wisely) that it is futile to completely stop the natural process of digestion in cattle; they have come up with some solutions to help alleviate the problem of methane gas emissions. Outlined in the report are recommendations that will reduce the production of flatulence in livestock, particularly cattle. However, it must be noted that some experts feel that livestock belching produces more methane than does the opposite end of the animal. Some of the EPA’s proposed solutions make sense such as feeding and grazing guidelines, while others are questionable. At least to me they are.

The EPA recommends exporting more cattle out of the country which would leave fewer cattle in the U.S. to generate pollution. (This seems logical and would be good for our economy.) Also, the agency suggests generating changes in price structuring which would have a market/demand effect on the production of cattle and dairy products. (interpretation: raise prices/lower quantity and quality) In addition to these, the EPA also recommends that cattlemen use injections of the FDA approved hormone rbST and anabolic steroids. These growth enhancers would decrease the time it takes to grow calves ‘out’ and would get them to the butcher more efficiently. And then there’s the use of ionosphores which is a naturally occurring antibiotic in the soil which would enhance feed digestion. And don’t forget genetics. I’ll quit at the mention of that subject. The EPA presents all of these solutions, and more, in greater detail in their reports.

While the EPA is supposed to be protecting us from this silent but deadly gas, it would seem that they are promoting the pollution of our bodies to accomplish their goals. Or do I misunderstand this report?

Of course, with any governmental study that can find the culprit to a problem there will be controls instituted and enforced. With the appropriate fees attached. California has already begun. San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District officials require dairies to get air permits. They claim that cattle are their biggest contributors to smog in their area. I wonder how much those permits cost.

Methane is a naturally occurring gas. Also, the principle component of natural gas is methane and we use it to heat our homes and to produce electricity. The environmental scientists are very concerned about the release of methane gas and ‘global warming’. I say that we are approaching this situation as a problem and not as an answer to our prayers.

It seems that the San Joaquin Valley is a natural bowl, a container if you will, for the entrapment of the bovine gases. We should encourage the growth and expansion of the dairy farms there in California. We could then develop a method to extract the methane gases from the air. If the concentration of the methane pollution is of such a problem that San Joaquin officials feel that they need to institute regulatory controls, then I say there is enough gas in that valley to be extracted and put to good use.

An easier solution to corral this elusive gas could be by the entrapment of the methane that is produced by the landfills. These prolific gas producers are more static by nature than livestock and it would be much easier to enclose and entrap the gases that the landfills produce. Maybe the already developed technology that is used to extract methane from natural gas could be used and !voila! We have cheap fuel!

You know… I have been known to, how should I say it… pollute my own space. And there’s a lot more people in this world than there are cattle. Does this pose a problem?

I do have a major concern here that I have yet to address. My question is: How far will the government go in order to control pollution that is considered a contributor to global warming?

You do realize that methane is only ranked second to what the environmentalists consider as the primary cause of ‘global warming’. (btw… I’m not so sure yet that global warming is really real.)

According to scientists, carbon dioxide is the number one contributor to global warming. And I only know of one way to eliminate the warm-blooded production of carbon dioxide.



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