Television’s “science guy” Bill Nye has a suggestion for combating climate change: Impose a tax on cow flatulence.
Mr. Nye, who hosts the Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves the World,” said it would be a “fantastic thing for the world” to charge a fee on carbon emissions, including “exhaust from the animals,” which would increase the cost of beef.
“[T]his is what we can do and it’s a win-win: to have a fee on carbon,” Mr. Nye told the Daily Beast in a Monday interview. “So if you are raising livestock and producing a lot of carbon dioxide with your farm equipment and the exhaust from the animals, then you would pay a fee on that and it would be reflected in the price of meat, reflected in the price of fish, reflected in the price of peanuts.”
He called it a “free-market way to reckon with the real cost of a meat diet to the world.”
His policy suggestion met with chortles from free-marketers such as radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who quipped, “We used to joke that they would raise taxes on cow farts, and now here a guy is proposing it.”
A University of Michigan and Tulane University study released in March concluded that reducing U.S. beef consumption would result in lower greenhouse-gas emissions, citing the energy usage associated with raising bovine feed, including fertilizer production and farm equipment.
In 2010, food production accounted for about 8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and in general, “animal-based foods are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per pound than plant-based foods,” said the University of Michigan statement.
“The production of both beef cattle and dairy cows is tied to especially high emissions levels,” said the release.
Not to mention the emissions from the cows themselves. “In addition, cows burp lots of methane, and their manure also releases this potent greenhouse gas,” said the university.
The beef industry has argued that such findings fail to factor in the nutritional benefits associated with the emissions.
“While I haven’t made the leap to calculating the grams of protein derived per individual cow burp or fart, I do believe it’s fair to conclude that per calorie, we are getting more bang for our nutritional buck when consuming animal fats and proteins compared to a cup of salad or bowl of pasta,” said Beef Magazine’s Amanda Radke in an April 8 post.
Mr. Nye said his policy prescription would apply only to the developed world, given that in developing countries, “you need protein and your agriculture may not be sophisticated enough to provide you the protein. So we’ll see. I don’t want to get in the business of judging people who aren’t vegetarians.”
He acknowledged that such a tax is unlikely because “conservatives now are against such a thing because they’re against any regulation, any tax or any government involvement in anything.”
“But again, it won’t last, and a carbon fee would be a fantastic thing for the world,” Mr. Nye said.