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Destroying the San Joaquin Valley in order to save it

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POSTED June 20, 2009 1:14 a.m.
Passing gas could one day become a criminal act.

It sounds absurd but who would have thought cows doing what they do naturally would become a major target of the air quality cops.

Methane gas is basically organic material breaking down. It is also a greenhouse gas that is over 20 times more effective trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. It also stays in the atmosphere for anywhere from nine to 15 years.

You can find methane gas being created at wastewater treatment plants, landfills, natural gas and petroleum operations, coal mining and farming activities — more specific dairy operations.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District is zeroing in on Bessie and the other 2 million dairy cattle in the valley that each produce 12.98 pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOC) a year. To put that in perspective 700 cows produce as much VOCs as 60,000 cars.

This sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is as scary sounding as arsenic in water. Guess what, arsenic is a naturally occurring substance found in all water. The issue is the arsenic level just as it is the level of green house gas in the atmosphere.

The solution the air pollution control district has is to cut the weakest from the herd – dairy farmers – and make them pay the price. Forget the fact the $1 million per dairy solution that involves covering a dairy’s lagoon and using a digester would essentially wipe out family farms. The air quality cops have zeroed in on cows and aren’t going to be happy until they’ve wiped out the dairy industry.

Methane gas and cardoon dioxide are apples and oranges in one aspect but in reality they are both fruits. One would think with the efforts being put in reducing carbon dioxide sources that it should go a long way to reducing greenhouse effects even though methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat.

Why not go after two-stroke engines such as weed whackers and other lawn blowers? The Diamond Bar Air Quality Control District has done studies that show it is a huge source of carbon dioxide – much more than a typical car. Yet no one has even considered seriously the economic and long-term ramifications of outlawing two-stroke engines as opposed to wiping out dairies.

That’s because the air quality control board is taking a piecemeal approach to cleaning up the air.

Instead of attacking everything that contributes to the problem as a whole and placing value in descending order on how disruptive, costly and effective they’d be compared to each other we are simply going down the list one-by-one.

It is all in pursuit of what would seem to be an agenda of having perfect air instead of cleaner air. There is a huge difference between the two.

Making this all the more ironic is we could chase the dairy industry to Mexico and then thanks to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Mexico trucks that generate 20 times the amount of diesel pollutants that their counterparts this side of the border could haul milk up here and effectively wipeout any gains by destroying our dairy industry in terms of air quality.

If you don’t think a diesel truck can make it from Tijuana to Bakersfield on one tank of diesel you’re dreaming. On the way it would add to air quality problems in the Los Angeles Basin and worsen the problems here in what has been described as the dirtiest air basin in the country in a number of different categories.

The end result is we could destroy the valley as a place for humans to thrive simply to meet an objective of air purity or – what would more likely being the case – approaching the problem in isolated steps.

It could all lead to the air being cleaner than even nature intended – unless, of course, they managed to ban lightning strike fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions – and end up having massive unemployment with people literally starving because we can’t produce affordable food.

Eliminating affordable food would be a good thing since humans tend to produce more VOCs when they consume more natural diets consisting of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
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