WTF? Don\’t horses have higher CO2-e emissions than lorries?

Suez Environnement, the owner of Sita UK, is trying out the new horse-drawn bin lorries in cities across France – saving petrol money and therefore carbon dioxide emissions.

Anyone actually have access to a decent calculation on this?

My starting assumption would be that 1 horsepower from a horse very definitely emits more CO2-e than 1 horsepower from an ICE.

I would go on an assume that picking up trash using a horse emits more than doing so with an ICE…..but that\’s the bit that I hope someone would be able to check?

I\’m equally sure that as emissions are currently reported a horse emits less. For we don\’t count emissions from the horse, from the land used to grow food for the horse, from the fertiliser used on that land and so on.

So my assumption (and as I asay, it\’s an assumption which I\’d love to have tested) is that this system will lead to higher emissions while recording lower emissions.

Making people think they\’re aiding in solving the problem while actually making it worse.

22 comments on “WTF? Don\’t horses have higher CO2-e emissions than lorries?

  1. And of course the emmissions from an ICE are zero when its turned off, which you do when its not wanted. Turn off a horse and you can’t turn it on again.

  2. Back to the middle ages it is

    People really need to read the rational optimist by Matt Ridley which very eloquently reminds every one of the hell that it was having horses parading around town instead of cars. Providing food for horses and cleaning up after them (you know having lots of horse manure around on the streets really isn’t a good thing: it doesn’t look or smell very good and it certainly isn’t very good for the public health) is NOT better for the environment than having cars

  3. Using horses is a truly terrible idea. You’d need more horses to carry away the horseshit dropped by the horses which carried away the horseshit from the horses…
    And the price of high rise flats would go through the roof.

  4. http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/578.html
    or and
    http://www.uctc.net/access/30/Access%2030%20-%2002%20-%20Horse%20Power.pdf
    The Times in 1894 forecast that by 1944 the horseshit would be nine foot high. Today? Maybe three stories.
    Of course the writer underestimated the growth of horsepower. There were about 50,000 horses in London in 1894. Today there is over 15 million HP on the same roads. Which would create roughly 200,000 tons of horseshit per day, not counting the problem of where to take the piss.

  5. Any carbons a horse emits were absorbed from the atmosphere relatively recently, an ICE’s ‘fossil fuels’ were absorbed a long time ago.

    On the other hand a horse based economy would be much less productive using far more resources to grind out the same amount of widgets and boondoggles.

    I read somewhere (here?) that the carrying capacity of the planet under organics is only 750 million, when does the Great Green Cull start? Demand for landfill (gravesites) will skyrocket.

  6. More back of an envelope calculation. If we want to be kind to horses (i.e. give them enough space to turn round) then in order to create enough space for the 15 million horses which are going to replace the HP we’d have to knock down half the buildings in London.

  7. You’d need more horses to carry away the horseshit dropped by the horses

    Not to mention the explosion in the sparrow population from the spilled food and undigested dung on the roads, leading to enormous quantities of bird shit and the consequent jump in salmonella infections.

    I think the phrase unintended consequences springs to mind.

  8. Any carbons a horse emits were absorbed from the atmosphere relatively recently

    A horse emits CO2.. which comes from food.. which is made with artificial fertiliser.. which is made from natural gas.. which is a fossil fuel. The food is transported to the horse by a vehicle that runs on refined petroleum which is.. a fossil fuel.

    I did some research a while back to look at CO2e for cycling. Four kids car sharing to school is less CO2e than cycling or walking. I would guess a horse has a pretty high CO2e hoofprint too.

  9. One would have thought that if they were worried about all “greenhouse gases” rather than just the relatively innocuous CO2, that horses woulf not be a very good idea because of the quantites of methane they emit. IIRC it’s about 20 times more “powerful” than CO2.

    Re: “the rhubarb” – I prefer custard on mine! (bdum tish!!)

  10. Feed production for a horse doing light work*, which this would probably qualify as, creates the equivalent** of 0.181 tonnes of CO2 per annum, plus whatever needs to be added for fertiliser use (this will vary).

    A light truck is estimated to emit about 6 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum. You’d need to be using 2 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser per acre per annum to get to that sort of figure for horse feed and I don’t think that’s likely. I think 0.2 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum per horse is about right.

    Horse to truck, then, gives a win for the horse. On the other hand, since an average truck gives about 300 hp (I think), you’re talking about 6 tonnes CO2 p.a. from the truck against 0.2 x 300 = 60 tonnes for the horses. So a truck gives 10% the emissions of the equivalent number of horses.

    Take your pick.

    * a horse doing light work is reckoned to need about 2 tonnes of hay and 1.3 tonnes of oats per year which at present yield rates requires about 1 acre of land

    **emissions are actually mainly Nitrous Oxide

  11. horses woulf not be a very good idea because of the quantites of methane they emit. IIRC it’s about 20 times more “powerful” than CO2.

    Hence CO2e figures (equivalent ‘warminess’ to CO2).

  12. @ Richard (12) Yes I suppose we could use multi storey car parks to house the horses. There was a multi storey underground stable complex on St John’s St to house the drays for Mann’s brewery. Now used for document storage, I believe.
    If I was made to muck out the stables I think I’d prefer your picture, though. Better to shovel down than up.

  13. blokeinfrance (#17) – would mucking out the underground stables count as one of those “Green Jobs” that Murphy is so keen on?

  14. Peter Risdon (#14) –

    Does that figure of 0.181 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum include the emissions from the tractors etc. working the land and the trucks delivering the grain?

  15. Richard – “would mucking out the underground stables count as one of those “Green Jobs” that Murphy is so keen on?”

    I think he is talking more about people to carry the Nobs about in sedan chairs. Much less CO2 intensive than horses. And they can (more or less) be relied on not to sh!t in the streets. Unless they are drunk

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