Cows, like Rodney Dangerfield, don't get no respect.
Methane is a useful and plentiful gas, like butane and propane, and it's a natural resource, expelled from the digestive tracts of nearly every animal on the planet. Horses do it. So do faithful dogs and arrogant cats, mules, sheep, goats and bison. Even the noble pig does it. Impolite men do it. (Women never would.) But nobody does it like a cow.
It can be a powerful explosive. A barn in Germany exploded the other day when a cloud of methane was set off by a charge of static electricity, after 90 ill-mannered cows, doing what comes naturally, produced enough methane by burping and emitting in a rude and uncultured way.
The Associated Press reported that the methane explosion blew the roof off the barn, and one cow, perhaps a guilty party, suffered burns and bruises.
Methane explosions can be funny — little boys are particularly apt to be methane entertainers — but the White House wants to cut methane emissions from the dairy industry by 20 percent by the year 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency isn't sure how to do it, but we can be sure a new tax will come with the solution.
It's about global warming, naturally. Everything is, if you listen to the gasbag politicians, scientists and academics on the make. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday released a 32-volume, 2,600-page summary of its latest hysteria, warning of killer heat waves, deadly droughts and flooding.
The panelists said if earlier warnings deserved to be labeled "blazing red," the new one is "deep purple." They even invoked the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — War, Conquest, Famine and Death — from the Bible's Book of Revelation, famously reprised by Grantland Rice as the Notre Dame backfield of 1922.
The panelists — no doubt, Bible scholars all — did not say whether they were Bible scholars or sports fans.
They nevertheless concluded that if we are all not already dead, we must expect the worst. "We're not in an era where climate change isn't some kind of future hypothetical," says the lead author of the report. "Nobody is immune," said another panelist. "We're all sitting ducks," said another. One connoisseur of pain went through the entire 32 volumes, and found the word "risk" on average 5 times per page.
The White House says it's taking this tall tale as a "call for action" and Secretary of State John F. Kerry says that to pay it no mind would be "catastrophic."
Blaming cows in a crisis of such magnitude reveals stunted vision, like punishing Vladimir Putin by taking away his parking place at the U.N. But cows are an easy target.
"Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence," explains How Stuff Works, an Internet website. "Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day ... while others say it's up to 500 liters a day."
That's a lot of liters, and comparable to the pollution pumped into the atmosphere by an automobile in a single day.
There's no call to hurt a cow's feelings about it, since cows are designed to "eructate" (the polite scientific word), though a good talking-to might not hurt.
President Obama has a very high opinion of his speechmaking, and he could make a personal appeal to the cows. High priests in Thailand preach an annual sermon to the assembled royal elephants, so why not a presidential sermon to the cows?
Cows have an excuse for rude behavior. They have an extra stomach, where microbes break down food and cause natural fermentation. Methane is a by-product.
This White House is particularly addicted to fantastical solutions to problems we never knew we had, so here's a modest solution to the methane crisis. It solves two crises at once, eliminating excessive methane and creating jobs.
A large bureaucracy could be built to deal with the impolite cows, the bureau of Bovine Unified Rancid Proclivities, or BURP, in the bureaucratic lexicon.
Hundreds of thousands of environmentalists, layabouts avoiding useful work, would be tasked as counselors to the cows, to persuade them to mind their manners. Bossy and Elsie and the other contented cows in the barn might never be entirely housebroken.
Congressmen, climate scientists and academics pump more methane into the air than any cow ever could, and like cows, have never learned to mind their manners. But we would get another large bureaucracy, and isn't BURP what Washington is all about?
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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