Ever since Al Gore and The Inconvenient Truth made its debut, there has been a growing concern about the reality of global warming and climate change in general. According to the National Geographic, the average temperature around the world has increased 1.4°F since 1880, with the last two decades of the 20th century being some of the hottest times in over 400 years.
Additionally, coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to even the slightest change in temperature of the water, are experiencing the worst bleaching (or die-off) ever recorded in 1998. In fact, if climate change continues at this rate, our children might never get a chance to see what coral reef is.
Not only that, but polar bears are losing their homes as the Arctic ice continues to melt. While we know that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is the biggest culprit for increasing global temperatures, did you know that the release of methane is also a major contributor to climate change? Who or what is to blame for producing a large portion of methane gas, you ask? Look no further than cow flatulence! That’s right, cow farts.
According to ProCon.org, in 2001, dairy cows ranked fifth in the total amount of methane emissions in the United States with 2,079,176 metric tons of methane gas, or 7.9% of the U.S. total. To really get a sense of how much impact the flatulence of cows has on climate change, scientists in Argentina attached plastic tanks to the back of cows and collected the gas released from the cows’ stomachs. The scientists concluded that methane from the cows accounted for more than 30% of Argentina’s total greenhouse emissions. In an effort to try to reduce the amount of methane emissions from cows, farmers are being encouraged to change the diet of cows by feeding them clover or alfalfa in place of grain. Another suggestion has been to infect cows with a particular kind of bacteria (that is currently unidentified) that produces methane-free flatulence, such as in kangaroo flatulence. However, this isn’t really a feasible option right now since scientists don’t know what the bacteria is, how to isolate it, and what effects the bacteria will have on cows.
Therefore, since there doesn’t seem to be a viable resolution to this issue of cow flatulence just yet, I suggest a modest proposal…
We need to start collecting cow farts. As much cow flatulence as humanly possible. Now, I don’t mean to suggest collecting cow flatulence as the next, up-and-coming hobby. However, we need to start collecting cow flatulence now to be able to gather enough energy to power the United States, and possibly the world. One Pennsylvania farmer has already got the right idea. Steven Reinford installed an anaerobic digester on his farm that is able to convert manure into methane to power about 100 homes in the Central Pennsylvania area. I say that instead of waiting for the product to come out the other end, we should already be harnessing the gases emitted by the cows, in a manner similar to how the Argentinian scientists collected the cow flatulence, and use the same anaerobic digester that Reinford used to convert the methane into energy! Therefore, not only are we cutting down on the amount of methane emissions via cow flatulence, but we will also have an alternate source of energy as a result of this proposal. With this new source of energy, we will be able to cut down on the amount of fossil fuels we have to burn, which, as aforementioned, generates a ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, this proposal tackles the issue of climate change from multiple angles — by reducing the amount of harmful gases released into the atmosphere, as well as converting some of those pollutants into something beneficial like energy! It’s a win-win!
I guess the only losers in this case would be the cows; having a plastic tank attached to your rear end isn’t exactly the most fashionable or most comfortable thing in the world. But cows already do so much for us, like provide us with milk and meat. What’s one more request? After all, with this modest proposal, we would be letting the cows fart freely, without any concerns of a cow fart tax.