Gas Engines Improve Air Quality and Save the Environment?
- Fodder for debate and chewing on...pun intended.
ajc.com > Opinion
Cars improved the air ... that's no bull
By DWIGHT R. LEE
Published on: 02/27/07
The motto of all environmentalists should be "Thank goodness for the
internal combustion engine."
The abuse heaped on the internal combustion engine by environmentalists
was never justified. But a recent story on cow flatulence in the British
newspaper, The Independent, makes the environmental benefits from
gasoline-powered engines even more obvious. Based on a recent study by
the Food and Agricultural Organization, The Independent reports that
"livestock are responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that
cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of
transport put together."
Long before global warming became an environmental concern, however, the
move from the power provided by animals to that provided by gasoline had
greatly improved the environment. The emissions that came out of the
tailpipes of horses were much more lethal pollutants that those now
coming out of the tailpipes of cars. Horse emissions did more than make
our town and cities stink; they spread fly-borne diseases and polluted
water supplies that killed people at a far greater rate than the
pollution from cars and trucks ever have.
Photochemical smog is clearly a health risk, but not nearly the health
risk of cholera, diphtheria and tetanus that have been largely
eliminated with the help of gasoline powered transportation.
Before the internal combustion engine it wasn't just cows, sheep and
pigs emitting pollution down on the farm. Tractors and other types of
gas-powered farm machinery eliminated the horses, mules and oxen that
had provided most of the power necessary to grow and harvest our food
and fiber. This not only reduced the problem that still exists from
animal waste that environmentalists, with justification, still complain
about. The internal combustion engine also eliminated the need to
produce food to fuel millions upon millions of agricultural beasts of
burden. It has been estimated that in 1900 it took about 93 million
acres of land to grow the food for the farm animals that were replaced
by current farm machinery. Most of that land has now gone back to
woodlands, greatly increasing the number of trees that are reducing the
problem of global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide.
The above consideration should have been enough to warrant an
environmental shrine to the internal combustion engine. And now we find
that by eliminating all those farm-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
produce by burning gasoline.
Even though the internal combustion engine is less polluting than what
it replaced, it is obviously not pollution-free. Efforts should, and
will be made to make it even less polluting than it is, and some day
internal combustion will be replaced by an even less polluting
technology. But history will look kindly on the internal combustion
engine as a major contributor to the steady progress toward a healthier
environment that has been made over the centuries.
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