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Of Flatulence and Government

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure that would require Golden State farmers to reduce cow flatulence, among other “emissions,” by 40 percent (below 2013 levels) by 2030.


That, despite, as some farm groups have noted, the government’s admission that there’s currently no known way to achieve such a goal. That should surprise no one, considering this is a government operation. Regulate now, figure it out later.

To be fair, Senate Bill 1383 regulates more than animal, er, passings. It also seeks to reduce methane emissions from belching and manure. The idea is to capture that methane as an energy source on and off the farm. It might be a noble cause but it fails the practicability test.

As the Western United Dairymen (WUD) note, the methane “digesters” that would be required to meet state government’s overall attempt to drastically reduce dairy cow emissions could cost $2 million each for a whopping $2 billion outlay.

Alas, state government would offer $50 million in subsidies from a cap-and-trade fee charged to “polluters.” That’s a government intervention to cover up the lie of a government intervention, no?

Additionally, “That is not only expensive but digesters do not work for every dairy,”  WUD CEO Anja Raudabaugh cautioned. “They can be an option for some but because of their expense and the reality that not everyone ‘dairies’ the same way, digesters cannot be a mandated solution,” she said.

Gee, it sure sounds as if the government wants to drive the dairy industry out of business, doesn’t it? And never mind that, by one estimate, methane accounted for a mere fraction (measured in tons)  of the supposedly “frightening” total “greenhouse gas emissions.”


And never mind, too, that those “dreaded” C02 emissions, a building block of plant life but the bane of envirocrats, hang out in the atmosphere far, far longer than methane.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses sees the methane emissions crackdown for what it is: “an inconsistent, new climate change policy which will further increase the cost of doing business in California,” the state that produces 20 percent of America’s milk.

As does just about every “climate change mitigation” effort.

So, back to those bovine stinkers, et al. How might one capture such, uhm, things?

Over at, Tyler Durden suggests the effort could lead to a renaissance in new technologies, such as “Argentina’s cow fart backpack,” invented by that South American nation’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology.

As Co.Exist reporter Ben Schiller detailed in March 2014: “Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens. They extracted the methane -- about 300 liters a day. That’s enough to run a car, or a fridge, for 24 hours.”

By the way, the cow wearing the prototype backpack for a publicity shot looked decidedly unamused. The idea appears to have been shelved.

Far be it from moi to rumenate (yes, the misspelling is intentional) but why stop there? The possibilities are endless.

Why, small dairy farms might be mandated to be situated next to most convenience stores and their new methane fueling stations (thus, greatly reducing transport costs or the need for pipelines).


Perhaps the government even could decree that all new vehicles be methane-powered large pickup trucks. That way, the Department of Cow Flatulence Redirection could assign one cow per truck per day to fuel it. We wouldn’t need no stinkin’ Priuses anymore.

And think of the retailing bonanza to come: “A free cow with every fridge!”

A chapter also could be taken from the carbon sequestration crowd. A vast network of methane sequestration stations could be constructed to pump cow expellings deep into the Earth.

Of course, there’s not a whole lot of research that suggests any kind of sequestration is geologically safe or monetarily efficacious. And environmentalists hate it. So, perhaps we’d better cross that one off the possibilities list. We can’t have the Earth tooting, now can we?

All this said, one can only wonder how long it will take the government to extrapolate this crackdown on bovine windbreaking to the human populace. After all, there are not quite 99 million cattle in the United States and about 323 million of us.

Don’t scoff. Don’t laugh. Remember, we’re talking about the government. And with government, all things are possible.

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