Sunday, October 28, 2007

1 Cow = 1 SUV

I knew cattle and sheep were responsible for a significant part of our greenhouse gas emissions but I was reminded of how much when I watched Countryfile today. Cows and sheep produce methane as part of their digestive process of which most comes out of the front end as a burp rather than the back end. Methane is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so astonishingly, the emissions from one cow is equal to running an SUV for the year!

There is work being done to see if by changing the diet of these animals, using additives such as garlic and changing the varieties of grass, we can reduce emissions, an scientist of hopeful of up to 30% reductions.

One large cattle/milk farmer spent £85,000 on a digester 17 years ago and it now heats two homes, including an rayburn and the energy used on the farm.

It's hard enough to suggest we should drive our cars less, to even think we should reduce the cows in our green fields seems almost sacrilegious.


Cork Environmental Forum said...

I always wonder about this topic.
Firstly an SUV is producing ghgs from fossilised carbon thereby unsettling the carbon balance, while methane released from a cow is derived from CO2 fixed from the atmosphere by grass.

Secondly, methane is relatively shortlived in the atmosphere and degrades to CO2 - I know this does not stand up to ultimate inspection, but there is a closed CO2 to CO2 cycle with the cow in the middle.

Thirdly it is positively sinful that we have not made more of anaerobic digestion in Ireland. Sinful. Cow sh!t must be one of the biggest untapped energy sources in the country - and no-one will convince me that that isn't green!

What is against cows is food supply pressure. Something like 15kg of grass to make 1kg of meat may not be the best use of land resources.

P. Treacy

Cork Environmental Forum said...

This has to be seen to settle the issue...