Using recent data on the carbon drawdown in soil from appropriately managed grazing yields enormous sequestration potential for Vermont and other agricultural states. (Observations by Seth J. Itzkan)
Photo of regeneratively managed cows from Meeting Place Pastures in Cornwall, Vermont. Proprietor, Marc Cesario. Recent data on carbon drawdown via regenerative grazing suggests that nearly 100% of Vermont's auto emissions could be offset through appropriate management of its agricultural and grazing lands.
According to a simple calculation, regenerative grazing can offset nearly all automobile emissions in Vermont. Below is the calculation followed by a discussion.
1. A recent study from Michigan State University has demonstrated that grazing managed properly - for ecosystem performance - can sequester atmospheric carbon in newly formed topsoil to the rate of 3.59 tons per hectare per year which equates to 1.45 tons per acre per year.
2. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistic Service, there were 195,000 acres in "AG LAND, PASTURELAND" in Vermont in 2012, the last year for which data is available for.
3. Multiplying the drawdown potential from line 1 of 1.45 tons of carbon per acre per year by the 195,000 acres of Ag / Pasture land in Vermont (from line 2), yields a yearly sequestration potential of 282,750 tons of carbon per year. (1.45 tC/acre/yr * 195,000 acres = 282,750 tons C/yr).
4. According to the EPA, a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This equates to 1.25 tons of carbon per year (where the mass ratio of carbon to carbon dioxide is 1 to 3.67).
5. Given the drawdown potential of 282,750 tons of carbon per year for the state of Vermont from line 3 above, and the EPA figure of 1.25 tons of carbon per vehicle per year of emissions from line 4 above, we can calculate that the offset sequestration potential for Vermont soil via regeneration grazing would equate to 226,200 vehicles. (282,750 / 1.25 = 226,200)
6. According to statista.com, there were 229,570 registered automobiles in Vermont in 2016.
7. Subtracting the number of vehicles whose emissions can be offset, 226,200, given in line 5, from the total vehicles registered in the state, 229,570 (line 6), yields a difference of only 3370 vehicles, or 1.46% of the total. Thus, the total offset is 100%-1.46% or 98.54%.
To be clear, this calculation is only a thought exercise. It's not likely, of course, that all the state's agricultural and pasture land would be utilized in this way. Nor should this be misconstrued as an excuse for continued carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles - certainly not. Cars and other forms of transport must go electric and renewable with haste. It is, however, revealing of the substantial potential for drawdown, and therein lies hope for our regenerative future.