From cow farts to blackouts: The GOP figures circulating wild theories about the new climate bill

From cow farts to blackouts: The GOP figures circulating wild theories about the new climate bill
·5 min read

The US House of Representatives passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on Friday, sending America’s most ambitious plan yet to address the climate crisis to President Biden’s desk to be signed.

While some environmental groups have criticized the bill’s fossil fuel provisions, it’s generally being seen as progress in cutting US domestic emissions. The new legislation will channel $369 billion into climate and clean energy investments and cut US emissions by around 40 per cent by 2030, according to several independent analyses.

The IRA passed Congress on strict party lines with all Democrats voting for it and no Republicans.

The bill has also led to some wild theories promulgating in GOP circles about climate solutions - and the climate crisis at large.

On Friday Donald Trump Jr, son of the former president, disparaged the new bill in a post on Truth Social.

“No, it’s not a joke. On page 529 of the Democrats Inflation Corruption Act, they state that they want to spend YOUR tax dollars to control cows’ farts. And they’re serious!” he wrote on the conservative social media platform founded by his father.

The current version of the bill does not have a page 529. However on page 199, the legislation lays out new funding for agricultural conservation projects, with priority given to trials on diet strategies that reduce methane emissions from livestock.

When cows and other farm animals burp or flatulate, they release methane — a powerful, planet-warming greenhouse gas.

All that methane can add up. More than a quarter of methane emissions in the US come directly from livestock, according to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2017.

Around the world, cattle release about 100 million tonnes of methane every year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, making cattle one of the largest single sources of emissions.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), warming the planet about 25 times as much as CO2, pound-for-pound over a 100-year period.

Meaning: all those emissions from cattle worldwide warm the planet as much as 314 million homes.

Don Jr wasn’t the only conservative with criticisms of climate solutions. Over the weekend, a video circulated of Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene suggesting that solar panels and wind turbines would cause appliances like washing machines to stop working.

“Lord, please God, don’t make me scrub clothes in a bucket and have to hang them out on the line when we switch over to wind turbines and solar panels,” the Republican House member said.

She also seemed to suggest that these technologies would prevent people from keeping the lights on at night.

“I like the lights on. I want to stay up later at night. I don’t want to have to go to bed when the sun sets,” Rep. Greene added.

While solar panels are less efficient at night and wind turbines don’t produce electricity when the wind isn’t blowing, electricity can be stored for later use.

Electricity can be held in battery storage systems and many homes have them attached to solar panels. The Inflation Reduction Act contains a tax break for homeowners who want to buy battery storage systems.

Many climate scientists and activists also acknowledge the limitations of solar and wind power generation and say we need a lot more storage solutions to compensate.

Electricity can also be stored in “pumped hydro” storage. A pumped hydro system has two reservoirs, one higher up and one down below. When you want to store energy, you use electricity to pump water from the lower reservoir into the higher reservoir.

Then, when you want to get that energy back, you release the water from the high reservoir back into the lower reservoir through a hydropower station – recreating the electricity you used to pump it up in the first place.

In 2020, Representative Greene’s home state of Georgia generated about 12 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources like hydro and solar, and 27 per cent of electricity from nuclear.

Wild theories on livestock methane and renewable energy aside, some GOP members continue to espouse that the climate crisis isn’t real.

As the IRA bill was debated on the House floor on Friday, Representative Bob Good, a Virginia Republican, had some choice words.

“There is no climate crisis,” Congressman Good said. “It is a hoax. This is the one crisis that even Democrats couldn’t create. They’ve been crying about the climate sky falling for 40 years now, predicting the world would end in 12 years. It is a lie.”

A recent paper found that 99.9 per cent of scientific studies agreed that the climate crisis is happening and is caused by humans.

As the planet heats up, Virginia will face a higher risk of extreme heat, severe storms and drought, according to the EPA.

This summer, the climate crisis has been linked to destructive flash floods in Kentucky, Missouri and Yellowstone National Park and explosive wildfires in more than a dozen states. Persistent and extreme heatwaves have descended across the US while western states remain in the grips of a 20-year “megadrought”.

Last year was the hottest year on record for the US, and eight of the top 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1998, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.