Friday, December 08, 2006

A Modest Proposal for Global Warming

One of the problems with global warming is all the CO2 from cars, especially cars idling in traffic. I had a brainstorm the other day: I'm sure this will be a good idea. We should eliminate cars inside cities and use only public transit and horses. Yes, horses. OK, donkeys and mules too. Horses are generally pleasant creatures (unless ill-used), they go by themselves, they produce new horses at regular intervals with only vegetable inputs, and while they exhale carbon dioxide just as we do, they certainly don't put out as much as an idling SUV. And they use zero fossil fuels.

But they're slow, you say. Um, so is most city traffic. Would we really go that much more slowly on or behind a horse than we do in a traffic jam now? Look at how the bicycles whizz past you when you're stuck. Besides, we move too fast these days. Going more slowly would be good for us. We could still use cars on the freeway for long distances, where they get better mileage. I freely admit horses aren't so good for long distance travel.

What about the road apples? People welcomed cars as a solution to pollution in the last century because cars don't poop in the street. There's the brilliant idea. The streets were full of horse poop in the 19th century because it was waste; nobody could think of a use for it except fertilizer, and farmers had their own supply. Some farms are now taking their manure dumps and processing them to extract methane which they burn for heat and power. With today's technology, it could conceivably be profitable to pay for recycled horse manure to feed into a power generation plant. Once people know they will be paid for it, they'll pick it up; look at what they do with cans and bottles. Homes could have their own small co-generation plants, for the local horse's poop; it's another way to go off the grid.

Energy independence through horse manure! It's the wave of the future.


  1. Anonymous9:00 AM

    I don't know. I like the idea for its totally outside-of-the-boxedness, but I think we would have to invent something special to clean up after 300,000 horses in one city. But man! that would supply some energy!!

    You know, for a time when I was a kid, my Mom worked at Disney in FL, and I always loved the monorail. It would be nice if we had some good, fast public transportation. I just wish we could have some out in the sticks where I live.

  2. Well, stephen, I'm sort of counting on the human race's willingness to do unpleasant work if they can make some money at it. If we have people pushing grocery carts around filled with scavenged bottles and cans, because they can get them for nothing and sell them for a small amount, then if we went back to horses, we'd have people pushing around carts (but not grocery carts of course), scavenging horse poop because they could get it for nothing and sell it for a small amount. The market makes the action. If no one was willing to pay for the stuff, then of course we'd just have a mess.

    I agree with you that good, fast public transportation is a great idea. BART was an excellent idea for the first 15 years or so, but they never had enough money for maintenance. At least now they're going to replace the carpet (impossible to keep clean) with a linoleum-like stuff that they can wipe down. Some of those cars just smell skanky.

    What I'd really like to see, only no one will ever pay for it, is a bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Right now the plane flight to L.A. is about half an hour, and it takes you 40 minutes to get to the airport and park, and another half hour to get through security. A train that could get to L.A. in 2-3 hours would cut the L.A. plane traffic in half - and you could get up and walk around on the train, and maybe even eat or get a drink. This is probably why it'll never happen: the airlines will pay any amount to block it. The Capitol Corridor train service between Sacramento and the East Bay is a roaring success (it's not even high speed), but that's because Sacramento is too close to the Bay Area for air service to be profitable.