By Malee Oot April 29, 2014
Cows, take heed, it’s about to get personal. Very personal.
Researchers at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (NIAT) have developed a ‘backpack’ for cows able to capture and store methane gas generated by the most personal type of bovine emission.
Argentina is a good candidate for experimentation with methane capture on this, more individual scale, as the country supports more than 54 million head of cattle, according the Embassy of Argentina.
Sadly, experimentation with the bovine backpack is not on-going, but, representatives from NIAT explained the purpose of the research was to demonstrate capturing and storing methane from an individual cow to use as fuel is possible.
Globally, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the ruminants, like cattle, are the methane emissions generated during the ruminant digestive process, called enteric fermentation. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ruminant Supply Chains, methane emissions generated during ruminant digestion account for more than 47% of emissions generated globally by ruminant supply chains.
Bovine backpacks are perhaps not the most cost-effective solution for tackling methane emissions, but the impact would not be insignificant. Methane is a major contributor to global climate change, with a global warming potential 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide. And, a single cow can generate as much as 300 liters of methane in a 24-hour period, providing enough energy to power a refrigerator for an entire day, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
The Obama Administration has also recognized the importance of tackling methane emissions. According to the White House, methane accounts for nearly 9% of greenhouse gas emissions generated in the United States. And this spring, the focus of the White House will be identifying major methane sources and exploring cost-effective strategies for reducing emissions. In March, Obama’s top advisor on Climate Change, Dan Utech released the Administration’s Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions (MRS), an expansion of Obama’s 21-page Climate Action Plan issued in June, 2013.
In the United States, cows are not off the hook yet. In June, a collaboration between the USDA, DOE, and EPA will result in the release of a ‘Biogas Roadmap’ highlighting voluntary strategies to expedite the incorporation of cost-effective technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the dairy industry. The aim of the Administration is to reduce dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020, according to the White House. As yet, it remains to be seen whether the Administration will tackle ruminant emissions on an individual level.