Opinion | The Cow-Shaped Hole in Biden’s Methane Plan

Actually, the Biden administration’s motion plan misrepresents and minimizes the livestock sector’s contribution to the methane emergency. Based on the motion plan, the oil and fuel sector is the “largest industrial supply” of methane emissions in the U.S. Landfills are “the second largest industrial supply.” However the cited Environmental Safety Company (EPA) information doesn’t assist this. Check out the pie chart included in the motion plan:

Based on the EPA’s personal information, the animal agriculture {industry} is the No. 1 industrial supply of methane emissions in the U.S., contributing an estimated 37 % of whole human-caused emissions. Because the chart reveals, cows and different ruminant animals (“enteric fermentation” on the pie chart) emit 27 % of the entire methane emissions, and livestock manure (“manure administration”) emits one other 10 %. For some motive, the company has chosen to listing these two livestock sources individually, however collectively they clearly are the most important class. The oil and fuel industries are second, chargeable for 30 % of emissions, and landfills are third, chargeable for 17 %.

This artistic accounting and the administration’s insurance policies belittle the livestock {industry}’s position in the methane emergency. Whereas Biden and different U.S. officers are preaching the significance of slashing methane emissions to forestall catastrophic warming and imposing robust new methane laws on fossil gas firms, they’re permitting super-polluting meat and dairy firms to proceed to emit large quantities of the identical greenhouse fuel with impunity.

Methane has pushed about one-third of worldwide warming to this point and emissions related to U.S. animal agriculture continue to grow. Decreasing carbon dioxide air pollution — which might heat the planet for hundreds of years or millennia as soon as launched — is significant to stabilizing the local weather in the long run, however it is going to take a long time for these cuts to sluggish the planet’s price of warming. Against this, decreasing methane — which is considerably extra highly effective than carbon dioxide at trapping warmth in the environment however principally degrades inside ten years — presents an unparalleled alternative to sluggish the speed of warming nearly immediately.

It’s a chance that the Biden administration is poised to squander. The Clear Air Act offers the EPA the power to regulate methane pollution from animal agriculture operations with out congressional approval. As a substitute of utilizing that energy, the White Home’s local weather plan for animal agriculture consists fully of subsidizing “voluntary” and “incentive-based” methane-reducing applied sciences and practices. These industry-promoted measures, comparable to including new ingredients to livestock feed that cut back methane manufacturing and capturing (and later burning) methane launched by manufacturing unit farm manure lagoons, promise to cut back “emissions depth” — the emissions produced per pound of meat and dairy merchandise — however they don’t clear up the issue.

Subsidizing these fast fixes does nothing to restrict the sector’s whole emissions, notably if manufacturing by the world’s largest meat and dairy firms continues to increase as expected. Nor does it handle the forces driving our continued manufacturing of much more meat than the planet can maintain: shopper demand stays excessive as a result of factory-farmed meals are artificially low-cost. The federal authorities offers multinational livestock and feed firms billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies annually to farm in extractive ways in which speed up local weather change and make the nation more vulnerable to its effects. It then permits these firms to emit methane and different greenhouse gases, pocket the earnings, and stick the general public with the invoice. The Biden administration now plans to present meat and dairy firms much more taxpayer {dollars} — and a green-washed picture — to put in elective technological band-aids that may, at greatest, inadequately cut back their air pollution and, at worst, incentivize and additional entrench essentially the most methane-generating techniques of animal confinement and manure storage. Biden’s methane motion plan is meant to be “value efficient” and “commonsense.” Close to animal agriculture, it’s neither.

To keep away from harmful world temperatures, the EPA can and may begin regulating greenhouse fuel air pollution from animal agriculture operations. Like oil and fuel services, manufacturing unit farms must be required to monitor, report, and considerably cut back their methane emissions. That can imply transitioning our present system of extremely consolidated, intensive-confinement animal factories and huge manure lagoons to a well-managed, pasture-based system with considerably fewer animals. The EPA is proposing strict new regulations on methane air pollution from oil and fuel operations. Methane air pollution from the animal agriculture {industry} needs to be handled no in another way.

On the U.N. local weather summit, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former dairy {industry} lobbyist, justified the Biden administration’s all-taxpayer-funded-carrots-and-no-sticks strategy by saying that there is “vital reluctance to regulation” in the agriculture {industry}, “however nice acceptance of incentives.” The indisputable fact that livestock firms would favor to gobble up public {dollars} quite than be regulated for his or her chart-topping methane air pollution is as irrelevant as it’s unsurprising. Biden’s local weather coverage needs to be dictated by what the planet wants, not by what oil and fuel firms need, and never by what meat and dairy firms need.

Decreasing methane air pollution from all main sources, together with animal agriculture, is our greatest likelihood to sluggish local weather change over the subsequent 20 years. If the Biden administration continues to disregard and refuse to curb the livestock {industry}’s methane air pollution, that chance will quickly be gone. As Biden himself stated in Glasgow, “some of the necessary issues we will do in this decisive decade — to maintain 1.5 levels in attain — is cut back our methane emissions as shortly as potential.”

Each fraction of a level of temperature improve issues, and the clock is ticking.

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