Nye puts it more delicately, in an interview with the Daily Beast, calling it “animal exhaust,” but in the end (pun intended), it’s the same thing.
The culprit — animal flatulence, especially from cows (aka methane) — has long been recognized as a problem by the environmental community. So have the proposals for ways of dealing with the emissions. In 2014, then-Secretary of State John Kerry pledged 15 million taxpayer dollars to a method for capturing cow farts. More recently, proposals have been put forward for taxing meat.
Nye’s plan is more laissez-faire. “I don’t want to get in the business of judging people who aren’t vegetarians,” he told the Daily Beast, adding that in developing nations, meat is still an essential source of protein.
In his “win-win” approach, cattle farmers simply pay a fee according to how much gas their livestock produces:
…[I]f you are raising livestock and producing a lot of carbon dioxide with your farm equipment and the exhaust from the animals, then you would pay a fee on that and it would be reflected in the price of meat, reflected in the price of fish, reflected in the price of peanuts.
This would be a free-market way to reckon the real cost of a meat diet to the world.
How exactly the farmer would go about quantifying the amount of gas his cattle emit — and how the government would go about verifying his claims — Nye doesn’t say.
I’m no scientist, like Nye, but it occurs to me if there were some way of harnessing and collecting the cow emissions, they could be recycled for use in, say, powering cars. Then again, that might be like catching cow farts — I mean lightning — in a bottle.