A Day Without Automobiles

Michael Walsh has a post over at PJ Media about a Sunday afternoon in Paris with no cars on the streets. I’m sure it was a lovely, peaceful day. When I was in Zurich during the 1973 oil embargo, all traffic was shut down (except for public transport and emergency vehicles) on a Sunday to save fuel, and the city was amazingly quiet.

OTOH, the people of Paris should be thankful for the internal combustion engines that move people and goods around their city. Food, for instance, does not walk by itself from farms to inner city grocery stores. Imagine what Paris would be like if the city’s food were transported as it was a bit more a century ago by horse-drawn wagons. There would be a great deal of dung to be removed from the streets every day.

The Laws of Thermodynamics require that whenever work is done, there will be some inefficiency. Changing the technology used to do work may improve the efficiency and reduce pollution, but it will never do away with losses and the resulting pollution all together. In the case of cars and trucks replacing horses for transport, the amount of pollution resulting from a given amount of work done is less—and there has been a real public heath benefit.

3 thoughts on “A Day Without Automobiles

  1. Author Joel Salatin writes about responsible farming techniques and tells about New York City being a huge producer of manure early in the 1900’s. (Good book:Folks, This Ain’t Normal.)
    It was a major issue, and one that was not solved by more horses pulling more wagons of manure. It was solved by the automobile.

  2. Parts of Tokyo (e.g. Akihabara) are car free on Sundays. It’s pleasant but, as you note, not something that can be done all day every day. In fact there are many pedestrian areas in cities across the world that allow delivery trucks and the like at certain hours of the day.

  3. Internal combustion engines have a couple of significant advantages. Filling a tank of gas is faster than recharging a. battery, and, the weight of a tank of gas is significantly lower than a battery holding an equivalent amount of energy. Turbine jet ignition and variable compression are potential innovations for ICE engines. Betting the farm on all electric is premature at best.

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