Have cars done any good for the environment?

Anonymous asked this question on 6/6/2000:

Hi, I am doing a school project on car pollution and it's positive and negative effects on the environment... Maybe I chose the wrong thing because I can't think of anything positive...Does anybody have any ideas of positive and negative effects car's (maybe that's the ticket) have on the environment???

My teacher says if I choose this topic it has to be something that is not common knowledge...

Kid in trouble with late homework

JesseGordon gave this response on 6/12/2000:

This is a slow answer, so I'll assume you already got a list of negatives. Here's a list of positives of cars in general.

1. The best topic you can do is horse manure. People in the early 1900s were very concerned about the quantity of horse manure on city streets. There were all sorts of horrific estimates of big a mountain of manure would be produced daily when everyone in a growing city got their own horse. Cars made that entire problem go away.

2. Also prior to the widespread introduction of cars, people used to be very concerned about mud and dust from streets (only after cars became common did paved streets, or at least cobblestone streets, become common). Dirt streets were common prior to that even in large cities, and they became mud whenever it rained. The mud spread everywhere, and also carried insects and germs and hence diseases. So paved streets, an direct result of widespread cars, reduced the problem of mud streets.

3. Cars today are a LOT less polluting than cars of the past. Yes, cars are still a major source of air pollution (and the leading source of a number of pollutants, like CO2). But compared to cars from past decades, cars today are very clean. Because cars are such a big source of air pollution, they have "driven" the technology to clean up air pollution. In other words, cleaning up car tailpipes has caused other clean-ups, like smokestack filters.

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