Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Cow Scrubbers?


Climate forcing is a term that has come into common usage recently to quantify the change in global temperatures attributed to climate change. Climate forcing is a formula used to calculate the amount of energy the planet receives from the sun, relative to the amount of energy the planet radiates back into space. Variances in climate forcing are said to be mostly determined by physical influences on the atmosphere such as orbital and axial changes. Some believe man is responsible for a portion of the energy generated back into space, as well. And so, it seems, are cows.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has stated that methane emission is responsible for about 20 percent of current net climate forcing globally.

In California, ARB says, about half of these methane emissions come from organic waste streams that can be put to valuable use as sources of renewable energy or fuel and soil amendments.

According to ARB, the other half mostly comes from enteric fermentation from dairy cows and other livestock. Yes, burps. Contrary to what one might think, cow flatulence is not nearly as bad for the planet as cow belching, known in bureaucratic terms as “short-lived” sources.

The dairy industry is under pressure to reduce methane emissions for which the state of California holds it responsible, and recently issued a press release stating their disappointment that California Governor Jerry Brown, in his just-released May Revise, has not proposed any additional funding for dairy methane-reduction projects.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that “at least $100 million will be needed for each of the next five years” to support artificial dairy digesters and other infrastructure the agency deems necessary to meet the targets in the state’s proposed Short-lived Climate Pollution Reduction Strategy. The California dairy industry is disappointed that the Brown administration continues to offer just $35 million for one year toward “bovine methane emission mitigation”.

In this issue we include a story on a pair of tugboats being built to US EPA Tier IV standards, which require large, heavy, expensive Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) treatment systems. The EPA has yet to release data on the amount of extra fuel to be consumed to move the added weight of the heavy SCR systems, but we suspect they have a negative impact on the maritime industry’s bottom line, with negligible – if any – positive benefit toward the mitigation of so-called ‘climate forcing’.

The EPA doesn’t break out emissions from Harbor tugs, container ships or passenger vessels, only separating recreational boats from “ships and other boats,” which are responsible for only 6.2 tons of CO2 for 2014. Bovine emissions, meanwhile, are estimated to account for 141 teragrams, or just more than 155.4 million tons of CO2 for the same year.

The California dairy industry claims that dairy methane-reduction projects provide the second-best bang for the buck of all the state’s greenhouse gas-reduction projects. That may be true, but the maritime industry is self-funding the Tier IV plants in the new vessels, while cattle receive a state subsidy of $35 million.


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