Barnaby Joyce might look like an idiot, and famously he often plays one on television, but he’s not the fool he would have you think. Joyce is Falstaff by pretence but Iago all the way down – a conniving and dangerous second lieutenant disguised as a beet-faced drunkard with a plentiful lack of wit. His performance this week in the Methane Wars, cosplaying a flyblown kiloderp of man-shaped cow pats raised to the threshold of elementary sentience…
… was as perfect an instance of tactical misdirection in the service of strategic shitfuckery as Scott Morrison’s leaking of the French President’s text message was a Nobel Prize-worthy self-own – if they gave out Nobel Prizes for world historical douche-clowns.
We suffered the unutterable shame of allying ourselves with a handful of petro-despots like Russia and the House of Saud so that our fossil fuel oligarchs might squeeze a few more years of untaxed profits out of coal and gas mining while their fossil fuel oligarchs pump crude oil onto the accelerating fire of the global climate crisis. But while nobody fainted away with shock that a Morrison government would straight up refuse to even think about phasing out coal mining — after all, our national plan to get to net zero is literally to do nothing different — the fight over methane was a brawl that broke out unexpectedly.
Not because we don’t know about methane. As a global heating accelerant it’s hella worse than carbon dioxide but there’s less of it by volume, so it gets less attention, until now.
We think of methane as farts, because that’s where a lot of it comes from. (Fun fact though, it’s not what gives your airborne toxic events their toe curling reek. Methane is odourless.)
The fart/methane nexus is why Joyce got up in our collective grill this week, predicting the mass murder of millions of innocent moo cows by godless green vegan climate fascists. Not because it’s ever going to happen, but because cows fart.
The beetrooter raged against any methane containment schemes because it would hurt country folk. He was, naturally, lying his big, white hairy arse off. But unlike Morrison, he went about his bullshitting with a measure of sophistication.
Yes, I know. But hear me out.
Joyce knows that reducing methane in agriculture doesn’t mean reducing herd numbers with a shotgun. His very own government is funding and promoting research into stockfeed supplements that could collapse the farty methane byproducts of your next T-bone or lamb roast by up to 80%.
Scientists from the CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia, and James Cook University have developed a supplement from seaweed that could allow graziers to double and even triple their herds and still drastically downsize emissions years before 2030, let alone 2050.
Or enjoy this handy screen cap.
So why did Bonerby get to huffing so hard on the methane bong?
Perhaps because while methane from agriculture is already falling in Australia, thanks to years of scientifically based, research-driven effort by thousands of farmers and by industry groups like Meat and Livestock Australia and the National Farmers Federation, methane from gas and coal mining is growing. And that growth is accelerating.
Pledging to cut methane emissions could have next to no effect on the beef industry or sheep graziers. They’re already doing the work because it’s in their interests to do so; partly to avoid carbon tariffs, and partly to avoid destroying the ecosystem on which we rely on for air, water, food and—you know—life, and from which they make all their quids.
The National Party, however, is in thrall to a couple of billionaire mining magnates and a small clutch of coal mining seats in Queensland. For branding reasons it still pretends to be the party of farmers, but that hasn’t been a real thing for decades.
The Nats run a protection racket for the fossil fuel industry, a high stakes grift that’s getting harder to pull off as the planet dies and people notice who set it on fire.
And so you get Bonerby, bullshitting about cow murder. He’s not an idiot. He’s a very cynical man who turns out to be much more adept than Scott Morrison at turning the truth inside out. I think he knew exactly what he was doing this week.