Poop, Farts, and Global Warming
This morning I was reading Google News on my phone when out of boredom I decided to search for the word “poop,” an act of stupidity that was rewarded with this excellent article about a Japanese scientist that has developed a low-fat poop burger. That of course is not to imply that poop burgers already exist and have simply too high a fat content to reasonably consumed, but rather a happy by-product of this particular scientist’s poop-burger process. I do wonder how much this particular scientist will have to pay in royalties to The Yes Men, as I’m pretty sure this was a well documented idea from a movie they released a few years back, see for yourself:
OK, let’s be honest, you know and I know I could riff on the poop burger theme for literally thousands of words, but that is not the reason I am sharing this with you. As stated in the article, one of the benefits to the poop burger would be its potential to reduce or eliminate the need for such a huge cow population, which the article states is the cause of 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions. This is a hugely significant number; As I mentioned in my last post over a month ago, oil only accounts for about a third of total CO2 emissions, which means that at 18% of overall greenhouse gas emissions (not just CO2) Methane from cows would rivals the (alleged!) Earth warming power of all the oil currently used in the world. Of course the article doesn’t mention if this number is on a US or worldwide basis, nor does it provide a reference (the author even seems hesitant to make the claim, saying that cows “allegedly” contribute 18% of greenhouse gases), so now I’m kind of annoyed because I feel like the number might be right, but now I have to verify it before I can really get into any reasonable discussion. Damn.
So, according to the EPA, Methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2, which gives some weight to the allegation. However, in looking at the EPA’s sources for Methane emissions in the US, Cow Farts (more scientifically referred to as Enteric Fermentation by the EPA, a $10 word I’ll leave to to use as you please) only accounted for 139.8 of the 686.3 Teragrams of “CO2 equivalent” Methane in 2009, or roughly 20.4%. This leads me to believe the author meant to say cow’s accounted for 18% of our Methane emissions, not greenhouse gas emissions. Of course more likely the author simply doesn’t really care about doing his damn job and just spit out the first number he saw on Wikipedia but that is neither here nor there, so let’s move on.
How does this greenhouse gas production amount compare to the one we calculated for oil? Well, one Teragram is 1,000,000,000 kilograms, which means the US alone produces 686,300,000,000 kg, or 1,513,000,000,000 lb of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas in the form of methane each year. 30,600,000,000,000 lb/year of actual CO2 was the number we calculated for the amount generated from oil on a world basis, and since the US consumes about 25% of the world’s oil, it accounts for 7,650,000,000,000 lb/year. This means that the US’s CO2 greenhouse gas contribution from oil alone is five times more than it’s total Methane based Co2 equivalent contribution, which itself is only 1/5th cow farts.
Alas, cow farts aren’t in the same league as oil when it comes to greenhouse gases, though if there were a way to eliminate them completely, it would be the equivalent of chopping 4% of oil oil usage as far as Global Warming is concerned, which wouldn’t be too shabby. However, this reduction likely isn’t enough to net me the Nobel prize I thought I was going to get for my cow butt-candle idea, which was basically a contraption that would automatically do this for every cow on the planet:
Unfortunately, my other idea for eliminating greenhouse gases by using a simple attachment to a major greenhouse gas contributor seems to be taken, and quite honestly, ill-conceived at best.
So, now that you’ve read this post and you can’t unread it, take a moment to let me know how you feel:
Alright, that’s all I have for now, I’ll try not to let there be a month and a half between posts again, but I can’t promise anything.