Cow Power! How the U.S. Can Decrease GHG Emissions by Using Cows

Hmm….the above sentence may sound a bit crazy and nonsensical. How can we reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using cows? As a vegetarian I am an advocate for reducing meat consumption in the U.S. and abroad because of the high levels of GHGs emitted into the atmosphere from the industry. But there is a smart way to harness some of those gases and turn them into energy.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today an new measure in the states to do just that. It’s a way to capture the huge amounts of methane that cows emit through their (ahem) manure. Methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 and is a key GHG to rapidly reduce. Vilsack’s new plan is to reduce GHG emissions from the dairy industry 25% by 2020. A main component of this plan is to convince farmers to invest in an anaerobic digester, which will capture the methane and turn it into energy.

Agriculture accounts for 7% of the U.S. GHG emissions, and 15-22% of world emissions. Investing in clean energy technologies to decrease agriculture emissions will be a great step forward to stopping climate change. Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa stated in a press release today that “Rural economies will benefit from the incentives in comprehensive energy legislation that reward production of renewable energy and sequestration of greenhouse gases.”

The midwest has a great opportunity to lead the U.S. in transitioning to a clean energy economy, and investing in farmers is a great first step.

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