Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

Taking a Break to Evaluate a Really Stupid Idea

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on December 5, 2008

Some people wonder why people like you and me actually care whether or not the Anthropogenic nature of Global Warming is real. Or, for that matter, whether it’s even a bad thing. After all, they argue, even if it isn’t real isn’t it a good thing that people are more aware of pollution and alternative energy and all those things, so that we are better stewards of the environment?

The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” It would be simple if you eliminated the first part of the equation and simply said that we should be good stewards of the environment. I couldn’t agree more. And I am all for research into ways to make existing fuels burn cleaner and to make alternative energy forms useful and efficient.

But the reality is that whenever you base decision-making on bad information or bad assumptions, you end up harming more than helping. Even if the goal is generally a good thing (cleaner, safer environment), it just isn’t that simple.

There is no better example of this than the agenda of AGW proponents in the sphere of politics. We all likely agree with the statement, “We should reduce pollution as much as possible, within our means to do so.” The question that needs to be clarified, though, is “What is pollution?”

The day we started accepting Carbon Dioxide as a pollutant was the day all common sense went to hell in a handbasket. The mind-boggling dollars that are being discussed as a part of the solution to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions is so numbing that most of us don’t even flinch any more with numbers in the hundreds of billions. We don’t even bother to consider the tax implications, on a global scale let alone a regional scale, of what these numbers mean. And that doesn’t even take into account lost efficiencies.

Jeff on “The Air Vent” (link to the right) has a number of posts on the impact of continuing to promote biofuels as a solution. Even if one could argue that the day will come when alternative fuels like these can be used more cleanly and efficiently, trying to do that now is not only premature, but counterproductive to efficiency, cost, opportunity cost, and the actual benefit in the end to a cleaner environment. At best, you can say that the current state of biofuels is a stepping stone in research to something better in the future, but as it stands now it is an outright lie to believe we are doing anything but hurting ourselves by this ignorant and obstinate push for biofuels. Check Jeff’s work.

So, today I open up a link on Drudge to find the following story:
Proposed Fee on Smelly Cows, Hogs Angers Farmers.

Your meat will now cost 20% more, suckers.

Your meat will now cost 20% more, suckers.

Here is an excerpt:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.

Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which is one of several put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases emitted by belching and flatulence amounts to air pollution.

“This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do,” said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the proposal.

It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and “all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them.”

Sparks said Wednesday he’s worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.

“We’ll let other countries put food on our tables like they are putting gas in our cars. Other countries don’t have the health standards we have,” Sparks said.

EPA spokesman Nick Butterfield said the fee was proposed for farms with livestock operations that emit more than 100 tons of carbon emissions in a year and fall under federal Clean Air Act provisions.

There is simply no way to overstate how ridiculously stupid such a proposal would be. I grew up on a dairy farm. We milked 60-70 cows at any given time, and had a number of heifers that we were raising both to replace the older cows or to send to market (or butcher for ourselves.) Now, I can guarantee you that 60-70 cows is a small, family operation. My dad was great with his money and so he did well, but he certainly didn’t rake in huge dollars. This was in no way some large-scale operation.

This proposal would have cost my dad another $12,000 per year. That means that one of two things would have to happen: food costs go up in order to cover the additional cost to the farmer, or the farmer goes out of business. There is no way he could have absorbed another 12 grand.

The rest of the article burned me up, too:

The fee would cover the cost of a permit for the livestock operations. While farmers say it would drive them out of business, an organization supporting the proposal hopes it forces the farms and ranches to switch to healthier crops.

“It makes perfect sense if you are looking for ways to cut down on meat consumption and recoup environmental losses,” said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman in Washington for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“We certainly support making factory farms pay their fair share,” he said.

PETA… need I say more? Yeah, let’s just fail to recognize that people who have invested in all the equipment and infrastructure to operate a Dairy farm can just switch to crop-raising. No big deal, right? After all, they should pay their “fair share.”

Morons.

At least there was a heartening end to the article:

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Haleyville in northwest Alabama, said he has spoken with EPA officials and doesn’t believe the cow tax is a serious proposal that will ever be adopted by the agency.

I am happy to see that. But a quick note to Representative Aderholt: Assume nothing! Many of the stupid things we do today were considered to be so ridiculous a few years ago that it couldn’t possibly be a serious proposal. These things start off as trial balloons until the ballon actually starts to float. It may not be now, but these inane proposals will continue and more will be passed.

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3 Responses to “Taking a Break to Evaluate a Really Stupid Idea”

  1. Ian Random said

    The term “factory farm” makes it okay because it means the farmer can afford it. If it said “family farm” then the article would have been sympathetic to their plight.

  2. The Diatribe Guy said

    You know, after I wrote that post, I got confused about something. Why are cows treated differently based on whether or not they are Dairy cows or Beef cattle? Do milking cows belch and fart more than Beefers? That isn’t consistent with the slang I learned growing up, where “beefing one” meant the room cleared.

  3. Jeff Id said

    I read the same articles last weekend. It’s bovine scatology for sure. What has me just stunned is that people will believe this. Like always lately, I got pretty pissed off and nearly wrote a post but I had family things going on. No factory farm could afford this either, it drives meat prices up and makes it difficult for poor to get protein.

    What is a “healthier” crop, what foods are we assigned to eat? Just imagine how corn prices would change if beef demand dropped. Would those farmers switch to chicken raising?

    I was at an ace hardware recently and the guy in front of me said no to a bag and produced his own. He said it is what we are supposed to do now to conserve. The cashier was in her early 20’s and in full agreement she went on with some story about her mom doing the same thing. Nothing is wrong with conservation but they are really lucky they did’t talk to me about it. I bought my stuff and escaped the store feeling a few IQ points shorter than I had gone in with.

    It’s a crazy world.

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