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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was driving yesterday near Lancaster, PA, an area well known for its large Amish community. It was a beautiful spring day and I was happily traveling along picturesque country roads when I passed an Amish horse and buggy in the opposite lane. The sight of this antique mode of transportation sharing the road with my extremely advanced '04 Prius set me to musing regarding the relative merits of each and specifically the question occurred to me: which one of us was driving the least polluting vehicle? One could jump to conclusions and immediately say the horse and buggy, but if you've ever spent time around horses you'll recognize that they do have significant emissions (I've never stepped in a Prius dropping).
So can anyone definitively say which one produces less pollution if both travel the same distance? Who was being more environmentally sensitive in our transportation choice, me or Farmer Amish?
 

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Still gotta say the Amish man is the less polluting of you two. After all, droppings or not, the horse will eventually die and when that happens it will decompose until there's nothing left. Whereas, when the Prius dies, there will be a lot of metal and rubber and chemicals to contend with that won't just simply waste away...
 

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Stepping over the solid emissions issue, primary polutants contributing
to smog are hydrocarbons.

The horse is not a ruminant, but it is a mammal and produces
methane, CH4, as an adjuct to the digestive process.
CH4 is a hydrocarbon, albeit the simplest one.

With a properly positioned probe, you can measure the horse's output.
Don't blame me if he kicks you.

The Prius hydrocarbon output is so low as to be practically zero (PZEV).

I would say the Prius wins.

Robert
 

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Prius and horse both traveling the same distance isn't a fair comparison. Even if the Prius pollutes less mile for mile, the lifetime pollution equation greatly favors the horse. It requires no industrial infrastructure to produce a horse - just a couple of other horses (feeling appropriately frisky) and some hay. The fuel for a horse doesn't come from an industrial refinery - it runs, in fact, entirely on renewable biofuels; its replacement parts rarely have to be shipped long distances; and horses do not require expensive paved roads for optimum use. All of these - and many other automobile-related factors - produce pollution in addition to what comes out of the tailpipe.

[On the other hand, a horse produces pollution even when it's not being operated. Very inefficient design. It would be greatly improved by a Power button.]

Nevertheless, I'm sticking with the Prius - though my resolve may waver if I read that the Kelly Blue Book value for used horses is $2,000 more than the cost of new horses. :lol:
 

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besides that, you cannot put two appropriately gendered Prii together and get a replacement Prius for when one wears out. You can with a horsie or two.
 

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Sanny said:
besides that, you cannot put two appropriately gendered Prii together and get a replacement Prius for when one wears out. You can with a horsie or two.
On the other hand, has anybody even tried? Maybe we just need soft lighting, the right music, some exotic scenery (no parking lots) and a couple of pina coladas in the gas tank? It wouldn't be the first time the Prius has surprised me!

Hmm ... a salsa and a seaside - purple Prius cubs!
 

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I think this is my favorite thread of all time. I do love whimsy.

But "cub" doesn't quite ring right for the baby Prii.
Scooters perhaps?
And to be a Hybrid, don't we need a mixed parentage?
:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
But... I think it is reasonable to assume my Prius will give me 200,000 miles or more over its lifetime (I highly doubt a horse could do more than 25 or 30,000). If you evaluate pollution produced per mile for both, even including the composition materials, might not the Prius come out on top?
 

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Hep said:
But "cub" doesn't quite ring right for the baby Prii.
Scooters perhaps?
And to be a Hybrid, don't we need a mixed parentage?
:)
Good point. Since amphibians were the original hybrid - combining traditional gill technology with unproven, experimental lungs - perhaps "tadpoles"?

Though I didn't imagine baby Prii being so squirmy...
 

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JRjr said:
But... I think it is reasonable to assume my Prius will give me 200,000 miles or more over its lifetime (I highly doubt a horse could do more than 25 or 30,000). If you evaluate pollution produced per mile for both, even including the composition materials, might not the Prius come out on top?
Geez, if you're going to be SERIOUS about your own thread ...

I'm no industrial ecologist, but I can't see this equation favoring the Prius. There are two distinct components to your query about environmental sensitivity. One is pollution; the other is lifetime energy consumption. I.e., if we burn up enough stuff it will be environmentally ruinous no matter how cleanly we do it.

Modern industrial technology is extremely energy intensive - it takes three tons of coal to produce one ton of steel. There's steel in a Prius. In a total energy analysis, we'd also have to calculate the energy required to mine the coal, to ship the coal, to build the steel plant that burned the coal (as a percentage of the total steel produced by the plant) and so on. And that's just one component of the steel, which is just one component of the Prius.

The horse has a much simpler life-cycle analysis. It drinks water and eats hay. Much of its energy input can be recycled - horse manure makes excellent fertilizer. Frankly, I think it would take many lifetimes of equine flatulence to equal the pollution produced by burning a ton of coal.

Human society has progess in a lot of ways in the last few centuries, but alas, less pollution and greater energy efficiency aren't among them.

Yet. The Prius may not be as environmentally responsible a choice as a horse, but for most people a horse is impractical. At least we can legitimately raise the issue of Prius vs. horse; nobody would even think to ask this question of a Corvette. I believe the Prius is helping car owners become more conscious of the demands we make on the planet.

Now can I go back to being whimsical? :shock:
 

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Hep said:
And to be a Hybrid, don't we need a mixed parentage?
:)
You wouldn't suggest putting :::gasp::: a little Prius together with a...a...a...CIVIC, would you? :shock: And surely you wouldn't even CONSIDER a Hummer. :::swoon:::
 

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At the end of the last century, we faced a looming crisis brought on by the huge and growing number of urban horses. The numbers looked grim and there were many doomsday propheses about the impact of horse emissions and waste on water quality and human health. The crisis was narrowly averted by the development of the automobile. The automobile has been much maligned but from a human health standpoint it has proven to be a net improvement over the horse.
 

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Imagine replacing all the cars in LA with horses. The average horse produces 50 pounds or .8 cubic feet of manure every day. They produce .11 pounds of methane per day. There are 2.1 million cars in LA. The math comes to 38,325,000,000 ponds of manure per year. That is about 613,200,000 cubic feet of manure. The methane would come to 84,315,000 pounds per year. There would also be almost a billion gallons of urine to deal with. The feed requirement would take most of the arable land in California. The water requirements would almost double the current use and create a water crisis in the state. All of this just for LA. The rest of the state would have to just move out. Here is a quote that I found that rings true to me. It is long. The author is:

Marlo Lewis, Jr.
Staff Director
Subcommittee on National Economic Growth,
Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs
Speech to the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
July 1, 2000



Horse Feathers

Let's try a thought experiment. And I ask that we strive to do justice to the memory of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

In the late 19th and earth 20th centuries, horse manure was a major health hazard in American cities, causing encephalitis and other insect-borne diseases. Each horse emits about 45 pounds of waste per day. And, pound for pound, the stuff is certainly deadlier than CO2! By the early 20th century, there were so many horses that one-third of all U.S. farmland was devoted to producing fodder.

Now, imagine that a James Hansen of that era steps forward and makes extrapolations from current trends. Factoring in urbanization, population growth, and economic growth, this modeler projects that by 1950 Americans will literally be inundated in equine emissions. Disease outbreaks will decimate cities. Wildlife habitat will disappear as farmers cut down forests and drain wetlands to grow fodder for horses. Food prices will soar as more agricultural resources are diverted from human nutrition to horse nutrition. Environmental refugees will stream across borders, straining social services. The equine emissions crisis will aggravate or cause political instability and international conflict.

To avert the crisis, policymakers propose an international treaty to limit the use of horses. There are fierce debates on whether all countries should have binding equine emission limits, or just the industrialized countries. Some argue that, since so much of economic life depends on horsepower, all nations must "meaningfully participate," or else the treaty will create unfair trade advantages for developing countries. Others retort that developing countries are too poor to limit their use of horses, and should not be asked to do so until they reach our stage of development.

To break the stalemate over the treaty, some politicians propose a system of early action crediting. Under this scheme, businesses that voluntarily reduce their use of horses would earn credits they could later use to offset their obligations under a mandatory treaty. But a number of thorny details remain to be worked out. Should the reductions be measured against an historic baseline - how many horses the firm actually used? Or against a future projected baseline - the number of horses the firm planned to use under a business-as-usual scenario? Or, should the crediting be performance-based, with firms earning credits by reducing their use of horses per unit of production or sale? And what about sinks - should credits be given only for manure reductions or also for manure sequestration?

In the meantime, horse breeders lobby Washington to establish a "Partnership for a New Generation of Horses." Under this scheme, taxpayers subsidize the breeding of horses that get more miles to the bushel of oats. Other interests lobby Congress for a "clean manure program" - an R&D effort to develop fodder that generates less infectious droppings.

Urban planners also get into the act, advocating "smart growth" policies. Ironically, these proposals are the exact opposite of what Al Gore is promoting today. Since the "solution to pollution is dilution," these activists advocate low-density, sprawling development. Sprawl, they explain, will reduce the number of horses per square mile, hence reduce ambient equine emission concentrations.

And then along comes - Henry Ford! He solves the equine emissions crisis before it even starts by exploiting the commercial potential of a new technology. A quarter century after the modeler's dire predictions, automobile civilization replaces horsepower civilization.

What today's sustainable developers don't seem to comprehend is that technology change is the great X factor in human affairs. Even in the short run, technology change is rather mysterious. Who among us predicted the marvels of the Internet economy even 10 years ago? Over the long run, technology change is essentially unpredictable. All we can safely assume about the world of 2075 or 2100 is that it will be more different from our world than ours is from the horse and buggy era. By the 22nd century, mankind will likely produce and consume energy in ways we cannot even imagine.

As Mark Mills reminds us, all climate models are based, explicitly or otherwise, on long-term technology forecasts. That is, to know how human activity will change the climate over the next century, one must also know what kinds of energy technologies will be prevalent 50 or 100 years hence. But that is impossible. We cannot know what has not yet been discovered or invented. What we can reasonably expect is that the 21st century will have its share of Henry Fords - and Einsteins, and Watson & Cricks.

The Kyoto Protocol is based on climate models that make various assumptions about key natural variables like water vapor, solar radiation, and ocean-atmosphere interaction. But even if the models some day get the science right, and can grasp the exact relationship between a ton of CO2 and an increment of global temperature, the models would still be no better than guesses - and most likely wrong guesses at that! Why? Because no matter how smart the science gets, the models must still make assumptions about that which cannot be modeled - long-term technology change.

Because long-term technology change is inherently unpredictable, climate change, insofar as it is affected by human activity, is also inherently unpredictable. Furthermore, because long-term technology change is unpredictable, it is sheer folly for today's politicians to believe they can plan the energy economy of 2050 or 2100.

What then is the driving force behind this precautionary foolishness and pseudo-sustainability? What fuels this Horse Feathers treaty and agenda?

I suspect that behind the Kyoto Protocol is the age-old lust for power. Carbon dioxide is not only the fundamental nutrient of the planetary food chain. It is also the most ubiquitous byproduct of industrial civilization. Manufacturing, electric power generation, farming, automobiles, aircraft - all are major sources of carbon dioxide emissions. To successfully control CO2 emissions, government must regulate practically everything - and on a global scale.

Clearly, we have more to fear from climate change policy than from climate change itself. If we are to remain a free and prosperous people, we must categorically and unequivocally reject the Kyoto Protocol.
 

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Ray, ....You do realize that we were all kidding don't you. .... Maybe, probably .... You see them on Austin Streets but in New England I haven't seen any on a public street for fifty years except for the parades and the Boston Park Police. I would guess "ditto" in L.A.
As a matter of fact, I can almost say "ditto" about the Prius. And those few, you don't have to follow behind with a shovel!
 

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There is a huge amount of BS being spread in the name of "green" or "sustainability". Some of the manure spreaders are naive and some are knowingly misleading. My little exercise is aimed at debunking the myopic visions of the green movement. The thought that we need to go back to a simpler time is absurd. There is this pie in the sky notion that we need to deconstruct the American lifestyle in order to address the damage that we have caused. There are many environmental issues that are real and immediate, yet we get trapped into throwing our energies into things like CO2 emissions. We are sold simple ideas like recycling without thinking of the energy costs involved in transport. Some recycling programs are viable and some are net losses to the environment. We pay for mass transit that is underutilized and wasteful, resulting in resources being squandered without benefit. Too many complex issues are put on a bumper sticker without understanding the implications of the message. We are too big and complex and evolving to educate each other with soundbites.

We must not trivialize the threat that faces our planet. We also must not waste our energy through lack of knowledge of the issues. My little math exercise was, of course, simply a demonstration of the absurdity of applying off the cuff ideas to real and perceived problems. It was my own form of laughing at the immensity of the issues at hand. It was not in any way intended to attack anyones comments here, but only to carry them forward. This issue is the passion that drives me forward and is at the core of my day to day energies.

About 15 years ago, some environmentalists protested the foam packaging being used by McDonalds and others. Scientific American did an article on the net impacts of the two types of burger wrappers, paper and styrofoam, from manufacture through breakdown in the landfill. The foam was about equal in impact in manufacture and better in breakdown due to the methane from the paper in the landfill. In transport, it was worse due to the increased bulk, but due to the amount of food that was not wasted and the safety of the delivered product, the foam packaging ended up being a benefit to the environment. Because of the public perception that the foam was bad for the environment(thanks to the protests and the news coverage) the marketing department for McDonalds switched back to paper. This story is repeated over and over in this country as young people are fed a line of crap and then pick up the banner and carry it.

If you want to pull my chain, you now know how.
 

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Well, there went the whimsy aspect.
It won't be horses. It will bicycles. No urine, no methane. Also no affordable oil. We will be more fit, our world will be smaller, and we will still love and live and the world will clean itself up. :wink:
 

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You have to realize just what website you are posting on and chill out. I know that the new Lincoln being sold in California is about as emission free as you can get and the big drawing point of the hybrids is gas milage. The price of gas rising makes a lot of folks who paid thousands over list for a mid teens valued car feel justified and a lot better of their decision. Check out Michael Creightons latest book with footnotes if you want a realistic picture of the present envireamenmt. It is fiction like the Da Vinci Code but backed up with documented facts.
The price of gas could get well into the mid two dollar range very shortly but unfortunately not because of the increase of oil prices, or shortages, or taxes but due to inflation which is really rearing it's ugly head after the performance of the stock market this past week!
 
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