EPA Might Regulate Point Sources of Methane

by Lorna Salzman

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas has expressed concern that the US EPA will attempt to regulate human-generated methane.

Barton, who recently also expressed concern that CO2 exhaled by marathon runners - up to 4/10 of a ton annually - might be regulated by the US EPA, is now studying the cumulative effect of what is euphemistically termed "passed gas", or "passed wind", sometimes called "farts".

No long-term studies have yet been conducted on these usually involuntary releases but scientists do not dismiss their impact. These involve methane, a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

Together with the methane released by cattle worldwide, this is of growing concern and might exceed the risk of CO2 within a few years.

No feasible method of curbing these natural gaseous releases has been found, nor does there seem to be any way of doing this that does not intrude upon individual privacy, something valued by all human beings.

An interview with Joe the Plumber, a credible political critic, is revealing:
"My job frequently requires me to confront the human source of methane, and believe me it is no fun. Frankly, while it is a messy job, I resent the notion of any kind of government interference with my customers' bodily functions...unless of course it means more money for me".

An editor of a scientific journal, Paul Petomane, said he would make no comment on control of human methane, for fear of being accused of having a conflict of interest.

Some national environmental organizations are, however, studying the feasibility of imposing a cap and trade regime on these releases, and are debating whether permits to release them should be auctioned or or provided free to all citizens.

Other groups prefer a methane tax that would be more transparent and less easily manipulated.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.