Thursday, March 15, 2007

Those Darn Cows

Fire of Liberty

Dwight R. Lee, an Economics professor from UGA, has a good piece over at TCS Daily that points out that the Greens should slow down their effort to eliminate the internal combustion engine(Remember Al Gore's declaration to do in Earth in the Balance) due to the fact that the car is far healthier for the planet than what they originally thought. Here's a look at Professor Lee's interesting take on how the gas/diesel powered vehicles have brought about such a positive outcome:

Global warming became a concern, however, long after the internal combustion engine began improving the environment. In 1900 most of the horsepower we had available really was horse power -- or mule power, or oxen power. As reliance on the internal combustion engine increased in the early 1900s, we began replacing the emissions that came out of the tailpipes of animals with those coming out of the tailpipes of cars and trucks. And the latter emissions were a lot less harmful than the former.

Consider the effects of horse emissions in our towns and cities at the beginning of the last century. The air and water pollution from horse manure contributed to a death rate far greater than that generated by the pollution from cars and trucks. No one denies that photochemical smog from gas powered vehicles is a health risk, but it is not nearly the health risk of cholera, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, diphtheria and malaria. These diseases killed tens of thousands of Americans in the early 20-century and these deaths began to decline as cars and trucks replaced horses and wagons.

And the improvements in the environment weren't limited to just the towns and cities. Before gasoline power arrived, beasts of burden were polluting agricultural communities along with meat producing animals such as cows, chickens and pigs. By eliminating horses, mules and oxen on farms, tractors and other types of gas-powered farm machinery greatly reduced the problem of animal waste that environmentalists, with justification, still complain about. This also eliminated the need to grow the food required by millions of farm animals. It has been estimated that it took about 93 million acres of land in 1900 to grow the food to fuel the farm animals that were soon replaced by motorized farm machinery. Much of that land has now gone back to woodlands.

Based on the above consideration alone, environmentalists should favor building an environmental shrine to the internal combustion engine. And now the evidence indicates that by eliminating all those barn-yard animals, the internal combustion engine also eliminated vast amounts of methane-producing flatulence, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide produced by gasoline engines.

I'd have to say that if a lot more of our politicians and folks in the MSM would start including some wise thinking like that of Professor Lee rather than hopping on Gore's "proven science" bandwagon, we'd be better off.

*Here's the article on cows from the Independent. Even with such facts, I'm still a lover of beef.

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