Joe & Linda SkinnerBEHAVIORISMSGrand Junction Free Press Columnists

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January 31, 2013
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THE SKINNERS: Power to the poopers!

HE SAID: Well, living in Colorado lately has brought radical changes in the weather. First, we are the state icebox for a month. Then, last weekend we jumped into spring-like weather of rain, fog, and mists with the temp barely below freezing at night. While many pooh-pooh the idea of global warming, whatever the cause, the weather patterns have certainly changed. But, I have discovered the reason why. Because we've been trapped inside so much and because TV is so bad, I have turned to food programs on Netflix. There I found the real reason for the disruption of our weather - cow farts. Scientists, in a United Nations report, note that cows and other livestock produce 18% of all the greenhouse gases in the world, more than all transportation forms like cars, trucks, etc. combined. That's because livestock is more efficient at producing these gases, most notably, methane. Methane, a by-product of their ruminant digestion, is better at trapping carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere than carbon monoxide and other gases. One cow produces an estimated 26-132 gallons of methane a day, primarily in the form of belches, farts and manure. Part of the problem is manmade because many large-scale farmers have taken to growing perennial rye grass which is like a fast food for cows. This one feed produces far more methane than a varied diet of unaltered pasture.SHE SAID: At first I thought your research was just so much cow byproduct, but, upon further reading, I am finding intrepid scientists are finding all kinds of ways to experiment with producing energy from wastes.In Argentina, they have developed a cow backpack that captures bovine burps and farts and converts them to electricity. One cow can apparently produce enough to power several homes. Maybe we can fit the dogs with a backpack and power all the office machines. I have noticed their production is directly tied to how many chew toys and cans of cheap dog food they consume.The Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is developing a toilet that captures the energy of our bodily digestion to power a home. That could really save us money on the cold days if we augment our diets with beans. Or maybe I should look into gas backpacks for the two of us. They don't call us old farts for nothing!HE SAID: Well, this discussion is a gas, but if there is a way to produce safe and cheap energy, we should pursue it. This is especially important in Third World countries where obtaining energy to do the smallest things like cooking either requires huge expenditures from limited budgets or leads to environmental destruction from wood gathering.Despite the naysayers, global warming is provable and a concept accepted by a huge majority of the scientific community. While we don't know with certainty what all the causes of the warming are, we know that if there is anything we can do to reduce the warming, earth will be a better place for humans. Anything positive we can do to help mitigate the warming as well as producing energy from renewable resources, would be the right things to do.SHE SAID: Along those lines, I read about an experiment where energy-producing metals have been placed under keys in cell phones, computers and game keyboards. Every time the user hits the key a small spark of energy is created that can be collected. The youngsters who are "connected" could really reduce their carbon footprint. I also know at Colorado Mesa they rigged some of the exercise equipment to produce electricity for the grid. Maybe we can put the cows on treadmills with the backpack.HE SAID: If we follow some of these suggestions, we will be doing what made this country great. We will have used our innovation and creativity to solve problems with new technology that benefits us. Such an approach has almost been forgotten in today's contentious, argumentative environment. I really would feel more comfortable using my computer if I knew it was powered by cow farts or key strikes rather than electricity from coal. We know how many people will die from health problems for each ton of coal we burn. SHE SAID: You're right. Between us and the dogs we are sitting on an energy gold mine. Bring on the beans!The Skinners hope that your energy is renewable, no matter the source. They can be reached at jlajtls@bresnan.net.


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 31, 2013 05:14PM Published Jan 31, 2013 05:13PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.