Coming Soon: The Low Emission Cow

Remember Ronald Reagan's killer trees, which he claimed caused air pollution? The latest environmental worry is cow belching, an alleged accessory to global warming. The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., says that when Bossie burps, she emits methane gas. And this happens about every 30 seconds. But mercifully, she's genteel enough so that, if you stand next to her, you won't hear the noise. The cow's four-part digestive system contains two chambers where fermentation breaks down food, creating methane as a by-product. With 1.25 billion cattle in the world, that's a lot of gas.

Never fear--the feds are on the case. The Environmental Protection Agency has given $300,000 to NCAR senior scientist Patrick Zimmerman and researchers at Washington State University for a project to see whether they can cut down on cow methane. They're feeding cattle different kinds of feed and measuring which produces the least amount of gas. At a minimum, bovine table manners will improve.

Sandra Atchison