California Governor Plans to Regulate Belching Cows To Slow Global Warming

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California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation targeting greenhouse gases produced by cows and other livestock.

According to a report by Fox News:

Cattle and other farm animals are major sources of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. Methane is released when they belch, pass gas and make manure.

Ryan McCarthy a science adviser for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) told Fox, “If we can reduce emissions of methane, we can really help to slow global warming,”.  CARB is currently drawing up guidelines to implement the new law.

Livestock are responsible for 14.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with beef and dairy production accounting for the bulk of it, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Since the passage of its landmark global warming law in 2006, California has been reducing carbon emissions from cars, trucks, homes and factories, while boosting production of renewable energy.

In the nation’s largest milk-producing state, the new law aims to reduce methane emissions from dairies and livestock operations to 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030, McCarthy said. State officials are developing the regulations, which take effect in 2024.

“We expect that this package … and everything we’re doing on climate, does show an effective model forward for others,” McCarthy said.

As expected, the dairy farmers are not happy with the new regulations and believe the implementation will drive up costs. California farmers have been struggling with five years of drought, low mile prices and rising labor costs.

They’re also concerned about a newly signed law that will boost overtime pay for farm workers.

“It just makes it more challenging. We’re continuing to lose dairies. Dairies are moving out of state to places where these costs don’t exist,” said Paul Sousa, director of environmental services for Western United Dairymen.

The dairy industry could be forced to move production to states and countries with fewer regulations, leading to higher emissions globally, Sousa said.

“We think it’s very foolish for the state of California to be taking this position,” said Rob Vandenheuvel, general manager for the Milk Producers Council. “A single state like California is not going to make a meaningful impact on the climate.”

The state regulators are looking for ways to reduce the methane emission produced by cows and may find the answer in changing what the cows eat.  The main target for regulators is the dairy cow manure which they say accounts for a quarter of the state’s methane issue.

The state has set aside $50 million to help dairies set up digesters, but farmers say that’s not nearly enough to equip the state’s roughly 1,500 dairies.

New Hope Dairy, which has 1,500 cows in Sacramento County, installed a $4 million methane digester in 2013, thanks to state grants and a partnership with California Biogas LLC, which operates the system to generate renewable power for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Co-owner Arlin Van Groningen, a third-generation farmer, says he couldn’t afford one if he had to buy and run it himself.

“The bottom line is it’s going to negatively impact the economics of the California dairy industry,” Van Groningen said of the new law. “In the dairy business, the margins are so slim that something like this will force us out of state.”

State officials assure the farmers they are committed to working with them and to make sure the new regulations will benefit them and the environment.  Ryan said, “There’s a real opportunity here to get very significant emissions reductions at fairly low cost, and actually in a way that can bring economic benefits to farmers,”.

U.S. Energy Information Administration  The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. EIA is the nation’s premier source of energy information and, by law, its data, analyses, and forecasts are independent of approval by any other officer or employee of the U.S. government.  Graph of CO2 Missions in the US by source shown below.
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