Tailpipes, cows expand Idaho's carbon footprint

Tailpipes, cows expand Idaho’s carbon footprint. Greenhouse gas emissions grew 30% from 1990 to 2005, thanks mainly to dairy expansion. Idaho Statesman. By Rocky Barker.

Part of this “increase” is an accounting change — to include methane gas as well as carbon dioxide. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas and cattle operations, especially CAFOs emit a lot of it.





  1. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Does anyone out there have a peer reviewed source that outlines how these cattle related gas estimates are made? I am not aware of any reports re hard science on this although I do not dispute that the issue is a real one. I just see a lot of claims about methane but never any empirical explanation of how the numbers are determined.

  2. Roy Avatar

    Dang! You guy’s are going to have to boycott milk and cheese now too.

  3. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Can I assume that the absence of any responses to my request means that there is no good data on cattle related methane production?

  4. Maska Avatar

    Mike, I haven’t had time to check, but there is much good info on climate related science on the Realclimate website. If there are good data on livestock related methane, they probably make reference to the studies.


  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Mike Post,

    The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization published Livestock’s Long Shadow in 2007 that takes us through the entire commodity chain and it’s affect contributing to warming gases, depletion of biodiversity, etc.

    If this does not suffice, let me know.

  6. Moose Avatar

    Does anyone recall awhile back there was a farmer with a large dairy herd who captured the cows meth gas and used it to supplement his energy sources for his operation. If I recall correctly, it did not require a large investment in tech on his part.

  7. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    It was on Dirty Jobs on TV, Mike Row the host visited his farm and helped him with the process, I think the total he spent to convert to Methane was less than 10K

  8. Moose Avatar

    Bingo..thanks Save Bears…I was wracking my brain trying to remember where I saw it. – gettin too old.

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar

    yes, the captured methane burnt creates energy and mitigates the contribution to warming gases.

    the ‘anaerobic digesters’ are not difficult to construct, nor is the methane difficult to capture and burn off – boise idaho’s landfill has retrofitted a methane power plant. third world communities use livestock waste w/ anaerobic digesters and burn the methane for cooking stoves and heating. and then of course, there’s mad max ‘beyond thunderdome’

    of course, this conflicts with the animal rights folk – feedlots are perfect sources for production of livestock that lends itself to capture of waste – free range is not. i read somewhere that winter pasture is particularly egregious w/ regard to methane.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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