Sunday, March 1, 2020

Another Blast From the Past

As the Democrat left keeps talking about the Green New Deal and Climate Change, it keeps reminding me of the times in the 10 years of this blog that I've posted about things that they just don't get right and just don't seem to understand.

They just don't understand the fundamentals.  Take renewable energy.  They say we need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.  No one mentions the world ran on renewable energy, burning wood, before fossil fuels were developed and petroleum has proven far superior to burning wood. 

They mean solar panels and wind turbines, maybe with some tidal power thrown in.  Why would anyone recommend wind turbines over nuclear when wind turbines kill incalculably more people than nuclear power?  Anyone who can look up some data online and run a calculator can show that renewables simply can't power the world.  It's not exactly secret it's just that it's hardly ever discussed openly.  In a rare exception, former Greenpeace president Patrick Moore had a wonderful Twitter response to everyone's favorite green twit, AOC, when she said “if you don't like my GreenNewDeal, put up your solution or STFU”:

Mentioning horses bringing food to cities reminded me of one of my all time favorite posts, from June of 2010...

When Gasoline Saved the World From Pollution

I used to get a trade journal called "The Industrial Physicist", a free publication for qualified subscribers by the AIP, who publish Physics Today.  I will always remember a handful of concepts I first encountered in those journals. 

The first one is that when gasoline powered automobiles first came out everyone thought they were saving the world from pollution. 

Before the invention of the car, transportation was largely by horse. There are a few problems associated with horse transportation that we don't think of today.  Horses produce large amounts of horse manure and urine, and by the end of the 1800s, American cities were drowning in them.  Horses would die and be left in the road, obstructing traffic.  Flies and other vermin were omnipresent, spreading disease, and the stench was overwhelming.  When it rained, streets turned into almost knee-deep swamps of wet manure.  When it was dry, the manure dust would cloud the lungs of city residents.  One New Yorker in the 1890s calculated that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan's third-story windows.  In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. No one knew what to do.  The horse had been the basis of human transportation forever. 

Horses need to eat. According to one estimate each urban horse probably consumed on the order of 1.4 tons of oats and 2.4 tons of hay per year. One British farmer calculated that each horse consumed the product of five acres of land, a footprint which could have produced enough to feed six to eight people. Probably fifteen million acres were needed to feed the urban horse population at its zenith, an area about the size of West Virginia. Directly or indirectly, feeding the horse meant placing new land under cultivation, clearing it of its natural animal life and vegetation, and sometimes diverting water to irrigate it, with considerable negative effects on the natural ecosystem.  Horse food had to be transported to the cities, requiring extensive infrastructure to support the effort.  Trains ran on rails under steam power, but getting things to the trains and from them to their final destination required - you guessed it - horses. 

And what goes in must come out.  Estimates were that each horse produced between fifteen and thirty pounds of manure per day. For New York and Brooklyn, which had a combined horse population of between 150,000 and 175,000 in 1880 (long before the horse population reached its peak), this meant that between three and four million pounds of manure were deposited on city streets and in city stables every day. Each horse also produced about a quart of urine daily*, which added up to around 40,000 gallons per day for New York and Brooklyn.  Vacant lots became piled high with manure; in New York these piles sometimes rose to forty and even sixty feet deep.

It was into this world that the miracle of the internal combustion-powered, gasoline-fueled automobile arrived.  In the span of two decades, the car eradicated a major urban nightmare that had strained governments to the breaking point, tormented the people, and brought society to the brink of despair.  Cities became much cleaner places. 

Now I'm not saying that cars don't bring problems.  I'm not saying oil exploration and gasoline production don't bring problems.  What I am saying is that we have lost the perspective of just how much cleaners cars and gasoline have made everything, and that the idyllic past was not as beautiful and unscented as we might want to believe. 

Much of the content in this posting is credited to a link that apparently can no longer be accessed - as of March 1, 2020.

Morris, Eric, "From Horse Power to Horsepower",  Access number 30, Spring 2007

* In the only comment to this article in 2010, reader hbbill said that 1 quart of urine per day is a pretty low estimate.  I said they must have dropped a decimal point and meant 10 quarts a day - 2 1/2 gallons.  That would make the total 437,500 gallons of urine/day instead of 40,000.

I've got to tell you, I'm finding it more entertaining than I thought to go through posts from nearly 10 year ago, as well as less old posts.


  1. Back in the day, the site USS Clueless had a good post about the lack of energy density in the green alternatives, and how they were inadequate as a substitute for oil.
    The info has been out there for a while, but the refrain keeps repeating.

  2. The article "From Horse Power to Horsepower" can be found here:
    or the .pdf here:

    1. Thanks! It's always annoying when I look at an old post, here or anywhere, and important links are gone.

  3. If you are going to rely on horses for transportation, and for producing food, about 25 percent of the food you produce will be consumed by those horses. They seem to forget that as well.

    In the 1920s - before tractors were widespread in agriculture - about 27 percent of the population worked on farms. As opposed to between 3 and 4 percent today.

    As I've said before, these people have never seen a combine harvester in real life, they have no idea of the scale of modern farming, but they can tell you everything that you need to do to 'fix' it.

  4. I've been around horses all my life. That quart of pee made me laugh.

  5. My El Paso born father told me of visiting Fort Bliss in the thirties when it was a cavalry post.
    He told me that the waste products of horses filled a lot of wagons.

  6. All Out Crazy is just another child who thinks she's intelligent because she has a degree from Boston U. but all she does is prove how bad the school is. I've traveled the west and seen so many wind farms doing nothing BUT standing still even in the wind and before they figured out they were killing birds, so AOC explain why. I do have solar on my house to reduce my personal power bill but I also live where there's a lot of sun. Can they power cities??? Not even. Their green new deal is as phony as all of their other programs. Stats stated here are very true and too difficult fro them to understand. They're as bad as Bernie's BS about Cuba being a great example of socialism. I know a lot of Hispanics in Florida who would take exception to his lies.

    1. AOC defines what I have come to expect from a degree in liberal arts holders over the years. Utterly worthless wastes of time and money, neither of which will ever be returned to society by a productive person. the terms liberal and productive being oxymorons.

  7. Always and everywhere, big government is a death cult. Implementing big government policy ideas is supposed to make humans miserable and poor and sick and starving and frozen to death. That's the goal.

  8. One could argue that, given enough money, electrically powered vehicles could replace fossil fuel vehicles in densely populated urban areas. However, never discussed in any detail is where the electricity comes from. Solar and wind power are simply not energy dense enough to support the power demand for the total electrification of urban transportation needs. Hydro power has been exploited as much as practical, and nuclear power is off the table. Nor is it practical or even possible to replace fossil fueled transportation with electric vehicles in suburban or rural areas.

    Also not addressed, is how the food, water, clothing, and manufactured goods that a city needs to survive are going to be transported into the city without fossil fuels.

    1. my local co-op has regretfully announced that it will not be putting in charging stations as requested. it seems while the power plant output would support the planned loads, the current wiring and high voltage distribution systems would need to be upgraded, a project valued at several millions of dollars. the applied surcharge would be beyond the co-op customers comfort levels/ability to pay. currently, recommendations are to forgo the plug in cars and go with efficient hybrids able to do without the high current daily charging of their batteries.
      that's just our podunk little neighborhood. now imagine the infrastructure it would require for the vast numbers of plug in electric cars envisioned by this ignorant cow.

    2. Another old post (2012) was about the power requirements for electric cars. The Must-Have $10,000 Add-On for Your Chevy Volt". It's the $40,000 car with all the room and comfort of a $15,000 car.

      The add-on is a new power distribution transformer for your house and your three or four neighbors.

  9. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Occasional-Cortex) is an IDIOT. She probably thinks all food comes from the grocery store and there is no need for farmers any more.

    If we can't get and keep these Communist/Socialist out of government then this annoyance will go on forever. If they somehow get into power actions will need to be taken to cure that illness.

  10. The condescending smirk of "we're in charge, keep yelling from the cheap seats" is the most enraging part of all this. AOC has zero qualifications for anything besides a pretty face and a nice perky set of tits and the ability to pour from a bottle into a cup without spilling too much of it, a skill my three year old has mastered. I don't think you could make her understand the concept of energy density or levelized cost of energy if her life depended on it. Yet here she is, atop the Dunning–Kruger Mount Stupid, peacocking for upcummies from blue-checked coastal eloi who Effing Love Science.

    She doesn't have to understand these things though, Inner Party members will still have fresh produce and the finest foodstuffs flown directly to their urban metropolis power centers from all over the globe by airplanes that inject staggering amounts of that evil CO2 directly into the troposphere. The rest of us? Let's just say they're doing trial runs of cricket-mealworm protein bars for a reason.

  11. "Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: 'Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit?' Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

    But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember,
    people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal
    transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS. None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

    Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong.
    - Michael Crichton, Michelin lecture, Caltech 2003: Aliens Cause Global Warming

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