California has become the first state in the union to regulate cow farts. The Golden State enacted legislation in September that will regulate greenhouse gas emissions from farms and landfills, including cow flatulence, a major source of methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
From the AP:
“If we can reduce emissions of methane, we can really help to slow global warming,” said Ryan McCarthy, a science adviser for the California Air Resources Board, which is drawing up rules 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.
Depending on how the regulations are crafted, they could result in price increases on milk and other dairy products for consumers all over the country. California dairy farmers say they’re already struggling with high labor costs, a drought, and low milk prices. The new regulations, combined with the mandatory increased overtime pay that was enacted by the California legislature this year, could force many dairies out of business.
California regulators plan to combat the methane that is produced by the digestive systems of cows. Cows release the methane when they pass gas, belch, or produce manure.
One of the ways they plan to reduce methane emissions is by requiring farmers to change the diets of their cows. For example, Australian scientists have discovered that adding a sprinkle of dried seaweed to a cow’s diet reduces the amount of methane it produces by 99 percent. The same scientists who made that discovery are now trying to scale up seaweed production to meet global demand. There is no estimate on how much this seaweed will cost.
Another idea being explored by California regulators is to require more dairy farms to install methane digesters, which burn methane gas and use it to produce electricity. However, the digesters are very expensive to install.
Rare reported in November that carbon dioxide levels have stayed largely flat over the past three years.