As Kate reported, the EPA is moving forward with its long-delayed national reporting system for greenhouse gas emissions. They estimate that it will cover 85 to 90 percent of total U.S. emissions. The agency set the reporting threshold at 25,000 tons of carbon, which will exempt individuals and small businesses, but will apply to all other industrial and commercial sources of GHG emissions.
That includes ethanol factories, by the way, which should provide further proof that the whole ethanol boondoggle won’t play a meaningful role in addressing climate change. Also included in the survey will be Confined Animal Feeding Operations (aka factory farms) due to their "manure management" practices. Being tagged as a massive source of GHG emissions certainly won’t make their business model any more sustainable. However, the EPA — clearly stung by the controversy over the non-existent "cow tax" proposal — leaves exempt from its inventory "GHG emissions from enteric fermentation from cattle," aka cow farts.
In fact, aside from manure (to be fair, no small contribution) most agricultural sources of emissions won’t be counted. The other exemptions include:
… rice cultivation, field burning of agricultural residues, composting, and agricultural soils would not be covered under this reporting requirement. The challenges to including these sources in the rule are that available methods to estimate facility-level emissions for these sources yield uncertain results, and that these sources are characterized by a large number of small emitters.
In other words, "biological" sources of emissions that are still the result of industrial production are left out. Despite this, the EPA maintains that this inventory will indeed be almost totally comprehensive. If the Danes are right, however, and a single cow emits four tons of methane in burps and farts a year, you have to wonder if the EPA is letting livestock producers off the hook too easily. Still, with chemical plants and fuel production covered under the reporting system, the climate impact of most of industrial agriculture’s "inputs" such as diesel fuel and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, will be measured. All in all, it’s a reasonable place to start.