Friday, February 5, 2016

Fart Tax

It was a slow February morning, the day after the Iowa Caucus, and Barry and I were loitering around Twin Rocks Trading Post discussing Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Barry did not have anything good to say about either the Democratic or Republican candidates, and I was in full agreement. This cycle has left us disenchanted with the election process, and we are considering a draft Ronald Reagan movement. We figure having a dead president would be better than electing any of the current contenders.

As Barry devolved deeper and deeper into a political funk, a Mercedes SUV pulled into the gravel parking lot and a middle-aged couple exited the vehicle. Since these were the first customers we have seen at the store since early January, Barry and I got a little excited. If nothing else, this would be an opportunity to communicate with somebody besides Priscilla and Danny. If our visitors were talkative, maybe we could gather fresh intelligence about what is happening outside the Kokopelli doors, thereby broadening our perspective. At times, living in this isolated corner of the world leaves Barry and me feeling somewhat detached. Revenue aside, we get starved for human interaction.

As it turns out, the pair originated in New Zealand. As many who have spent time around my family know, my son was named for Bill and Penny Grange. Bill discovered Penny in Christchurch during his LDS mission. It was likely love at first sight, and they never again separated until Penny entered the next realm approximately six decades later. When we met, Penny was in her middle 60s, and Bill a couple years younger. I readily admit I was madly and irretrievably in love with Penny, and exceptionally fond of Bill too. Despite our age differences, which amounted to about 30 years, we formed a natural and lasting bond. As a result of my attachment to Bill and Penny, I developed an unrestrained interest in Kiwis and the land in which they live.

As is my habit when New Zealanders arrive at the post, I began interrogating the couple about the islands. One day I will travel to their homeland and be armed with volumes of information essential to an exhaustive exploration of the country. The gentleman seemed sophisticated about the economics of dairy and sheep production, so we launched into a discussion about cows, water rights, grazing and waterways contaminated by animal waste. About that time Barry commented on the volume of methane gas produced by bovines and its effects on the natural environment. The man chuckled and said, “Yes, our politicians even tried to enact a fart tax.”
Cow backpack methane measuring device

Barry, who had apparently been studying this particular issue by watching several episodes on the Discovery Channel, said, “Do you know, according to new research, livestock’s noxious emissions account for a large portion of the methane gas being released into the atmosphere. Some researchers say cows are producing twice as much methane as scientists previously believed. While carbon dioxide is still the primary greenhouse gas, methane is certainly a formidable contender. Do you know the EPA has recognized the contribution cow farts are making to the Earth’s greenhouse gases? A single cow can produce between 250 and 500 liters, or about 66 to 132 gallons, of methane a day.”

The Kiwis and I were startled by Barry’s vast knowledge of issues relating to cattle emissions. Barry, realizing he had captivated us, and wanting to burnish his reputation as an expert in the field, proclaimed, “You should know, however, it is a common misconception that the cow’s rear end emits the methane; the vast majority is produced orally. It’s bovine burps that really matter. A fart tax would therefore be misapplied and generate precious little cash.” We all had a good laugh, and soon the travelers decided it was time to continue their journey.

A short while later I was sitting at my desk, reviewing the economics of trading posts and mulling over the concept of a fart tax. I began to wonder whether we could assess one ourselves and make a few dollars to shore up our ongoing operations. We won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say we might generate a significant income stream when the tour busses begin arriving this spring. Barry, Danny and Priscilla questioned what the tax rate should be and how to collect the assessment. As for me, I am most concerned with the ill effect those tourists are having on our physical and emotional well-being and our immediate environment. As we can all attest, cows have nothing on that herd of travelers.

With warm regards, Steve and the team: Barry, Priscilla and Danny.

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