Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Can they make enough Beano for all the cows and pigs to save the planet?

My friend Harry is worried. You see, he has a flatulence problem. Even though he avoids beans and the other usual suspects, he is still a greenhouse gas emitter. Harry is not a rich man so he is concerned what his problem will cost him after Barack Hussein Obama becomes president. (It’s ok to use his middle name now.)

To save the planet we will give up our main stay light bulbs and in California at least, our big screen TVs; but Harry is now worried that his “problem” may take on previously unforeseen consequences.

Why is Harry worried, well the EPA is considering implementing a 'Cow Tax' (and a pig tax) that could cost farmers $175 per dairy cow to curb greenhouse gases. It may only be cows and pigs today but it can be poor Harry tomorrow.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act proposes to levy a tax on livestock. The ANPR, released early this year, would give the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas not only from manmade sources like transportation and industry, but also “stationary” sources which would include livestock. The New York Farm Bureau assigned a price tag to the cost of greenhouse gas regulation by the EPA in a release last month.

“The tax for dairy cows could be $175 per cow, and $87.50 per head of beef cattle. The tax on hogs would be upwards of $20 per hog,” the release said. “Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits.”

Harry fears that if cows, pigs and cattle who have limited short life spans (you know why) are taxed so much; what would a similar levy cost him if he lives out a normal life of seventy-plus years. In his lifetime he could be guilty of spewing out copious gas and become an environmental pariah, shunned by his neighbors (even more than he is now) and pursued by tax collectors (“We’re from the government and we are here to help you.”).

What will happen if he can’t afford to pay the flatulence tax? Will he lose his, albeit, smelly house, his car and his family? Will his wife take the children and divorce him when their friends know about Harry’s predicament?

Although some in the news media try to put a spin on the subject and say Harry is worrying for nothing, Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, warned it’s certainly feasible – especially based on the rhetoric of President-elect Barack Obama and the use of the EPA to combat global warming. Such action by an Obama administration would take an act of Congress for livestock (and Harry) to be exempt.

“The new president has been on record as saying that he really supports regulating greenhouse gases out of the Clean Air Act,” Krause said to the Business & Media Institute. “So, we really have to keep an eye on it. Legislation would really be the only way to exempt it at this point – the cow tax.”

Harry is not only worried about the direct cost to him as a greenhouse gas emitter but how such a global warming tax on animals for their flatulence would affect food production and what that added cost would do to his budget. Krause said it is difficult to quantify the cost that might be passed directly to the consumer by farmers from the legislation, but predicted it would mean higher costs for milk, pork and beef. For Harry who is on a tight budget, a decision will have to be made whether to give up his way of life or live on dog food as those old ladies heralded by Democrats have warned unless socialized medicine is brought to us all.

“It’s hard to figure what it would do to consumer prices since farmers, unlike other industries, really can’t pass their cost along directly like utilities and things do,” “About the only thing we could realistically come up, in terms of any of this stuff – it would add between 7 and 8 cents per gallon of milk costs to farmers. So it would cost them 7 or 8 cents more to produce a gallon of milk”, said Krause.

Even the Department of Agriculture warned the EPA that smaller farms and ranches would have difficulty with limits as much as 100 tons annually on emissions:

“If greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural sources are regulated by the EPA, numerous farming operations that currently are not subject to the costly and time-consuming Title V permitting process would, for the first time, become covered entities. Even very small agricultural operations would meet a 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold. For example, dairy facilities with over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit. It is neither efficient nor practical to require permitting and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from farms of this size. Excluding only the 200,000 largest commercial farms, our agricultural landscape is comprised of 1.9 million farms with an average value of production of $25,589 on 271 acres. These operations simply could not bear the regulatory compliance costs that would be involved.”

"It's estimated even modest ranchers would have to ante up $30-to $40-thousand a year for this tax alone. It would bankrupt most."

What do you think would happen to food prices, not just for Harry but the rest of us? Harry may not realize it but this is not just a problem for him, it will affect the whole of world.

Hundreds of environmental ministers from 187 nations recently met in Poland to work on another treaty to combat “global warming.” The purpose of the treaty would be to cut agricultural "greenhouse gases." It’s clear that after fossil fuel and light bulbs agriculture is next in line to be controlled to save the planet.

Apparently with a straight face, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri laments, "We haven't come to grips with agricultural emissions." (Of course he is talking about cow and pig flatulence and the gasses produced by their manure.)

Dr. Pachauri is head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and won a Nobel Prize. Although his first intention is for us all to voluntarily eat less red meat to reduce our carbon footprints, he is not above proposing that it become so costly only the rich can continue to enjoy the extravagance of beef, pork and milk.

One goal of Pachauri and the United Nations is to require labeling food so consumers can compare the "emissions" of poultry, beef and pork. If you consider that there is no way, to calculate the carbon footprint of a steak, prime rib or center cut pork chop, you can see how ridiculous this idea is.

As if to lend support for the insanity, the New York Times reported that the Swedish group Lantmannen says that producing a pound of beef creates 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a pound of carrots. The Times also reported that Dr. Pachauri said if everyone would just reduce meat consumption it would have more effect than switching to a hybrid car.

Whoa! If you believe that I have this little bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

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