More Bad Gas from Politicians

And a helpful solution.

Ever since the global warming argument changed from a joke into a real threat to the global economy and personal freedoms, one of the more amusing facts with which to hammer climate alarmists is a matter of simple chemistry: Cow flatulence causes more global warming than cars do.

This is because cows emit methane, which pound for pound causes 23 times as great a greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide.  And the problem is not confined to cows; any ruminant animal, including sheep and deer, does the same thing.  So for all the concern by greens about carbon emissions by human beings, barnyard animals are actually a much greater "problem", and that's not even considering Bambi's flatulence in the forest.

Not to worry, though.  As with everything else that moves, our environmentally conscious regulators have developed a plan to address the worldwide danger of rude cows: Tax it, what else?  The Associated Press reports:

For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if the federal government decides to charge fees for air-polluting animals.

Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which they contend is a possible consequence of an Environmental Protection Agency report after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases from motor vehicles amounts to air pollution.

The article goes on to cite EPA officials denying any intention of levying flatulence fees on cows.  In truth, it would be a bit surprising if they did: for all their declining numbers, American farmers have legendary political clout, and have managed to arrange for taxpayers to subsidize them in all sorts of ways.  Even with a new administration more sympathetic to the goals of the environmentalist movement, attacking farmers' livelihoods is a good way to get clobbered.

The political realities of this situation put the EPA in a bind.  It makes absolutely no difference to the climate whether global warming is caused by carbon dioxide or by methane.

If we are to establish a tax on things that cause global warming, as Mr. Obama's "cap-and-trade" proposal is intended to do, then it only makes sense to tax all sources of greenhouse gases.  Not only that, it's logical to levy the tax in proportion to the greenhouse effect of each particular pollutant, which would suggest that a cow to be taxed at least 23 times as much as a Land Rover.  If we are to be taxed out of our cars, how is it logical not to also tax a larger pollution source than cars?

A tax on cows is not the solution to the problem, and for the EPA to have realized this illustrates that taxes are not the solution to any scientific problem - and at its heart, that's what true environmentalism is.

There is good news on this front: Scientists in England have developed a far better solution, applying human ingenuity and technology to produce an answer which not only reduces pollution, it also - because methane is a burnable fuel - could provide a free source of electricity.  You can see this new invention pictured here.

Instead of letting bovine flatulence befoul the atmosphere, the tube intercepts the methane as it is produced inside the cow and the tank collects it.  The methane is harvested at milking time, preserving the atmosphere while cutting the farmer's utility bills.

Methane extractors do make the cows look funny, though!  Which brings up another bright idea: Why don't we strap those tanks onto politicians, bureaucrats, and the environmental protesters that promote such silliness?  There's so much hot air being produced, it's just got to be melting the icecaps all by itself.

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
"If we are to be taxed out of our cars, how is it logical not to also tax a larger pollution source than cars?"

"Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

The incorrect premise here is that politicians and bureaucrats are capable of logical thought.
December 18, 2008 1:07 PM
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