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Cattle Blamed for State Carbon Footprint

by Pat McCoy
Capital Press, July 10, 2008

Cows, cars produce more than half of Idaho's greenhouse emissions

bluefish adds this article as a source of comparison. NW Power & Conservation Council reports that replacement of the four Lower Snake River dams with fossil fuel electricity would add 4.4 million tons of greenhouse gas per year.
A report prepared for Idaho by the Center for Climate Strategies says activities in Idaho accounted for about 37 million metric tons of gross carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 and lists agriculture as the second largest source.

While low compared to other states, Idaho's emissions are rising faster than those of the nation as a whole, the report said.

Prepared for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and submitted to Gov. Butch Otter, the report inventories and forecasts Idaho's greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2020. It will be a starting point for state officials charged with revising initial estimates as improvements to data sources and assumptions are identified, the executive summary said.

The report states cars and trucks contribute 27 percent of Idaho's greenhouse gases. The next highest source is agriculture, at 25 percent, pointing chiefly to dairy and beef cattle as the culprits. Another 17 percent comes from home and business fuel use and 14 percent from power generation.

"The figure for cattle needs to be put in perspective," said Jeff Byrne, public information officer for Idaho DEQ. "We have a fairly large livestock presence in the state and a relatively low population. That makes the percentage of gases blamed on cattle much different from national figures. We're still one of the lowest emitting states in the nation, ranked something like 47th. Also, Idaho contributes only 0.5 percent of the entire nation's greenhouse gases."

The 2006 Idaho Agricultural Statistics Report says Idaho is home to about 2.1 million head of cattle and calves. Of that number, about 520,000 are mature milking or dry dairy cows, said Bob Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen's Association.

"The methane gas issue is exactly why the Idaho dairy industry is working so hard to establish the new Idaho National Livestock Center for Environmental Studies," Naerebout said. "Such a research center will benefit all surrounding states as well as our own. As an industry, we're actively working on raising $5 million for the facility and another $5 million specifically to support environmental research. We invite all others concerned about this situation to join in our efforts to raise those funds."

The Center for Climate Studies report states that Idaho's annual per capita emission rate stands at 27 to 28 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person. The national average is 25 metric tons per capita.

"The higher per capita emission rates in Idaho are driven primarily by emissions growth in the agricultural sector," the executive summary said.

The summary continues by noting that economic growth in Idaho exceeded emissions growth throughout the 1990 to 2005 period. During those 15 years, emissions per unit of gross product dropped 40 percent nationally, and by 51 percent in Idaho.

Pat McCoy
Cattle Blamed for State Carbon Footprint
Capital Press, July 10, 2008

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