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Fart Tax.

We all fart, that is pass wind, have flatulence etc. The same concerns animals, especially herbivores, those that eat grass. The metabolism of such animals is different in that, due to the huge amounts of symbionts, they are able to feed on cellulose. However they pay for this through the production of large amounts of methane, which must be released from the animal in some way, otherwise its accumulation is likely to result in an explosion… 
And here starts the issue of worldwide concern. For some years now we have heard and worried about the ozone hole. This phenomenon threatens to raise the levels of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth and all of the medical worries that accompany this. We also need to pay attention to the greenhouse effect, otherwise some smaller islands and countries will simply disappear, and huge amounts of people will be displaced and forced into higher lying areas. Not to mention all of the social consequences that will come hand in hand with this. 

And how is this connected to either cows or sheep? Well, methane is one of the most active gasses responsible for the aforementioned punishments of mankind. A cow consuming 50kg of grass daily  produces, as a byproduct, about 350 litres of gaseous methane, as well as 1500 litres of carbon dioxide, which also has consequences in terms of global warming and the ozone layer. Methane from a cow, as for all animals, has two possible exits, either the front or the end. Both of these are used. And in total, on a worldwide scale, about 15% of methane emitted into the atmosphere originates from animals. Mostly industries and transportation are blamed for the greenhouse effect, but in fact, in farming countries a substantial percentage is likely to be from livestock. Furthermore, in predominantly farming countries, such as New Zealand, up to 90% of produced methane comes from cows and sheep. However it is much harder to limit the methane production of  livestock than it is of industry. When it comes down to it, we can give up a lot of things, however we are likely to eat animal products for at least a couple more generations. So what can we do now? And here the New Zealand government came upon a ingenious solution. Cows and sheep should be taxed and the money put towards studies on how to reduce the amounts of methane produced by the animals. 

Thinking about these issues, I have reached the exact opposite conclusion. The money should be directed at studies regarding the opposite. The amount of methane excreted should be raised, but the methane should not be released into the atmosphere, rather cows and sheep should be fitted with special masks that covert the methane into higher hydrocarbons. In one word, produce ethylene or another high energy fuel by means of catalytic conversion performed directly at the two outputs of the animal. Theoretically this is not entirely impossible. The practical problems will be solved as soon as we pose the problem to scientists - which is precisely what I'm doing here. 

Even at the current methane production rate of cows, from one animal we could get one quarter of a litre of fuel. A farmer with five hundred cows would daily have over 100 litres of fuel, and hence problems of the costs of transport and heating are sorted in this way. The farmer also gets to keep all of the profits from the milk or wool that is the primary product, as these processes do not hinder each other in any way. The opposite is true in fact - the more milk, the more gasoline. 

And there's even more. Theoretically, there is no reason that the appropriate catalytic converter cannot convert methane into ethanol. In that case, one cow with a mask on its snout and rear end can daily produce half a litre of 50% "cow-vodka", which should easily satisfy the needs of an average alcoholic. This also would not hinder the milk production of the cow, which I'm sure, would be very appreciated for the hangover the next morning. 

I have been told by a very well informed source that for the time being, as long as cows and sheep do not have full rights as citizens of our common planet, it will be the farmers that have to pay this tax. This may change in the future…

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(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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July  2003

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