Got (moooo) Smog?

· Among the Barbarians

A curious editorial in the Sunday New York Times points out that California’s agricultural heartland may be at the heart of an air pollution crisis that could require regulation of cow emissions as well as car emissions. It seems that the mammoth dairy farms of the San Joaquin Valley–where about twenty percent of the nation’s milk comes from– are emiting about 19 pounds of pollution per cow per year. Add that by 1.7 million dairy cows (in all, there are 5.2 million cattle and calves in the state) and you’ve got a lot of bad gas. Dairy farmers disagree that their cows are contributing to air pollution. And they have political clout; the state’s biggest industry is agriculture and the top-earning commodity is “milk and cream”, earning them well over $4 billion annually.
The other major air polluter in California also happens to have a lot of political clout. Although the state has managed to enforce the strictest vehicle emissions laws in the country, the rising numbers of vehicles and particularly the rising numbers of SUVs–which do not have to meet the same pollution emission standards as other passenger cars–means the state is losing the battle against air pollution.
Recently, Bay Area residents, who have some of the least polluted air in the state, have been required to meet the more stringent smog standards of more polluted regions (e.g. the San Joaguin Valley). That means this year when I renew the vehicle registration on my 1988 Toyota Tercel I must take the old jalopy to a “test only” smog station where I’ll probably be told that the old gal (EVE294) doesn’t pass the test.
A reasonable solution to this dilemma might be to purchase a new SUV…or I could try to disguise the Toyota as a cow.