Monday, January 4, 2016

Your Tax Dollars Subsidizing Methane Gas Emissions

UPDATE: Five Thirty Eight Politics scooped me on this story.

Well, looky here. On the one hand, the minimum wage has declined substantially over the last several decades in real terms. But on the other hand, federal government subsidies to a small number of cattle ranchers has increased as the gap between the market price and the Bureau of Land Management grazing fees has widened.

According to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity, "fewer than 21,000 — or 2.7 percent of the nation’s total livestock operators — benefit from the Forest Service and BLM grazing programs in the West." Furthermore,
The federal subsidy of the grazing program goes beyond the direct costs and fees. There are vast indirect costs to grazing on federal lands, including the government killing of native carnivores perceived as threats to livestock, wildfire suppression caused by invasive cheat grass facilitated by cattle grazing, and expenditure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds from protecting other species threatened by livestock grazing. 

And just what comes out the other end of those federally-subsidized cattle? Greenhouse gases... Methane... Farts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency. 26% of U.S. methane gas emissions in 2013 came from "enteric fermentation," The EPA also explains that:
Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. In 2013, CH4 accounted for about 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock.
About 70% of that enteric fermentation is done by cattle. So the BLM subsidized cattle ranchers account for about half of one percent (.5%) of U.S. methane emissions annually and .05% of total ghgs from human activities. In effect, taxpayers pay around $100 million in grazing subsidies annually to the cattle ranchers whose cattle emit that greenhouse gas. That subsidy. of course, doesn't include the uncompensated damages the methane contributes to through climate change.