September 3, 2019

The Difference Between Cows’ and Cars’ GHG Emissions

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

One can say that there is a millennium of difference between the greenhouse gas emissions from cows and trains, planes and automobiles.

It all boils down, so the speak, to basic science, explains Frank Mitloehner, an associate professor involved with environmental studies at the University of California-Davis.

In the process of digesting forage and other feed, microbes in the cow’s rumen convert the carbon in those feedstuffs to methane, which is then released into the atmosphere. But he notes that methane is destroyed at a rate equal to its creation through a chemical process known as hydroxyl oxidation.

While the process takes 10 years, the amount of methane in the atmosphere remains constant as new methane is created and old methane is destroyed. “Methane [in the atmosphere] stays stable as long as the livestock herd stays stable,” Mitloehner explains.

That’s not true of the carbon dioxide (CO2) created through the burring of fossil fuels. The CO2 created when gas, oil and coal is burned remains in the atmosphere for 1,000 years.

Watch his 6 minute video explaining the difference between cows and cars here.