Good News Friday: Fewer Cow Burps, Less Warming

This Friday you get a two-for-one dose of good news.

Three for one, if you’re a cow.

A massive pill invented by a German scientist promises to substantially reduce methane emissions from cows. Methane produces an estimated 4% of global warming, according to the Guardian story.

Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is more than twenty times as potent a heat-trapping gas as carbon dioxide. Cow burps sound like a dumb joke, but their gaseous emissions are a real problem. According to this SFChronicle story, a cow can burp out 100-200 liters of methane a day.

Not to mention what’s coming out the other end, which also can become methane emissions.

To make the best of this gaseous situation, a new project is helping provide $280,000 methane digesters to over a dozen farms around California, including a dairy farm in Point Reyes north of San Francisco. Harvesting the fumes from the waste manure–produced in massive varieties by 280 cows–not only avoids adding harmful emissions to the air, it generates electricty.

Best story seen on this to date comes from USAToday, which helpfully points out that this effort was driven by a mandate from the California legislature, which after the crisis of 2001 required utilities in the state to generate 10% of their power from renewables by 2010. Methane is a big part of that.

Some call it poop power.

The Bush administration has their own version of the idea, called it Methane-to-Markets. The administration’s record on global warming is pitiful for the most part, but this is one exception. Methane adds up to 16% of global greenhouse gases emitted from human-created sources, according to the EPA, and they say this program if fully implemented could produce as much energy as 50 coal plants producing 500 megawatts a year. To be realistic, It’s an international program, and it’s unclear how much success it has had. To date the administration has committed a maximum of $53 million dollars.

Still, it’s something. Interesting that the Current Occupant of the White House hasn’t mentioned it since 2004.  Probably he doesn’t want to raise the subject of total emissions, currently rising at 11% a year


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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