Horse Manure: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

A story told on pp. 8-11 of SuperFreakonomics – about the plague of horse manure, the introduction of the automobile (an “environmental savior”), and the resulting carbon emissions — has been turned into (of all things) a Mercedes-Benz commercial. (No, we weren’t compensated … yet.) It is interesting that Mercedes calls its anti-emissions initiative “BlueEFFICIENCY” rather than “Green.” Has “green” worn out its welcome? (HT: Matthijs Kooiman)


blue is the new green



Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Horses defecate streets. Cars cause CO2 Emissions.

Bicycles are only cause skid marks. They are the best compromise 100 years ago and today. Whether green, blue or red, Mercedes won't acknowledge this fact.


To #3, Dude I work 11 miles from home. In my area that isn't far. So it would take me at least 55 minutes to get to work everyday without lights and bad weather. Then what am I suppose to do. There is no shower at work. I don't want to stink all day.

Face it there are places that are over 5 miles that I must go so I must have a car or something like a car to get me there in a reasonable amount of time. Freaking deal with it.

Yes bikes are better. Anybody would know that. But just not feasible in the world we live in today that is spread out.

Someome will build something that will emitt no emissions that can get us to where we are going in a reasonable amount of time.


@Greg, figure it out. If you love your kids, try to think of the earth. 78% of Manhattan residents don't own cars, so it can be done..To me it is priority number one, my own impact on the earth, on the future..It may be a small thing, but it is something i have control over..
If you have no way to move closer to your work, reduce your carbon footprint in other ways, too many to mention..


Perhaps people associate the word 'blue' with efficiency more than with green. This would be a strange finding, since 'green' (environmental) solutions are the most efficient ones almost by definition.

@Greg, you don't have to give up your car. Instead, pay an amount when you use it that reflects the externality costs to the environment. Give the money to a cause that can offset the environmental damage, e.g. Andean schemes to paint mountaintops white in an effort to regrow lost glaciers due to anthropogenic climate change by altering surface albedo.

Pedal on

What we really need is greater awareness of people riding bikes. Companies should install showers for employees so they can ride to work, and even offer incentives for employees to ride to work (and would probably save a great deal in health care costs in many cases due to health benefits). Drivers should be more respectful and aware of bicyclists and their safety. As someone who frequently road bikes, I have noticed many drivers are unaware or don't care about the risks they pose to cyclists with aggressive driving, which probably frightens many people out of using bikes for transportation. A lot of conflicting research exists on whether or not bike paths improve bicyclist safety, but some sort of increase in infrastructure via bike lanes or paths would probably also increase the rate of biking to work.


I thought Biking to work created my CO2 than driving? People expel a lot of's all marketing, there's no such thing as man-made Global warming anyways. :)


@ #4: I believe you're talking about an electric scooter. They exist, sorry!


The metaphor isn't quite perfect. Horse manure also fed the farms of Long Island, which in turn fed the residents of Manhattan.

Carbon emissions haven't really fed anybody, last I checked.


Well, it has been a popular forward for a while now.

Wonder if they were compensated...



Freaking move then. Or freaking get your employer to install showers. Nobody said moving away from a stupid lifestyle built around the even stupider concept of passenger cars for everyone was going to be easy.


Someome will build something that will emitt no emissions that can get us to where we are going in a reasonable amount of time.
indubitably ...


Although all anybody ever thinks about is that they're dangerous, motorcycles are actually extremely efficient because of their very light weight compared with cars. They are far less expensive to purchase and maintain, get great mileage, reduce congestion because they are so much smaller, can go around traffic and they can even cut to the front of lines for red lights in some cities.

If you want green and convenience, buy a motorcycle and ride it responsibly.


The blue is a continuation of the MB BlueTec, which is what they called their recent turbo diesels. Why blue? Because that's the color of the smoke the old diesels made?

Ian Kemmish

1) Maybe the German Green Party objected to "Green Efficiency"?

2) Even at the time, it seems unlikely that the Karl Benz's invention would have been hailed as an :environmental saviour" by many people - at the turn of the 19th into the 20th centuries, the most strategic and urgent piece of industrial chemistry one could be engaged on in the Kaiser's Germany was the search for artificial nitrate and phosphate fertilisers to replace all that manure.


Wow, lots of Malthusians in this topic.

Anyway, I think we can all agree that Greg simply needs to suffer more. Greg, you need to force your employer to install a shower or smell your sweat all day. If you get fired, don't worry about that, just think of all the carbon savings.

Did someone point to Manhattan as an example for Greg to follow? Manhattan feels dirty. I live in Raleigh. It feels clean. You can't possibly conclude that people living on top of each other is a better long term environmental solution simply because of the absence of cars?

You may have noticed, but nothing green grows in Manhattan without the city setting aside an area for a park.

The problem with environmentalism is that it so often resembles a Pharisaical religion. Squeezing out the gnat and swallowing the camel.

You can cover everything in concrete, breathe dirty air, have an extremely expensive cost of living, a highly invasive police force (or before that lots of crime), increased homelessness, and all the other negatives of dense urban cities. But you get the bonus of not having a car?

The environment needs to be considered as a whole. Piling people on top of each other isn't the answer. Bikes are not the answer. Seriously, if your solution to the energy and environmental problems is to move backwards, you are going to need a dictator in place to get it done.

We need to start looking at things like Thorium powered reactors and stop pretending that Greg simply needs to lower his standard of living to that of the Monastic Institution of Suffering for Environmentally Righteous Yearnings.


Eric M. Jones

Horse manure was a serious problem in 1900 America, now the Internets spread it so the problem has gone hitech.

Let's not talk about the environment without discussing mandatory birth control. Otherwise it's all just a waste of time. Sorry, I wish it wasn't true..

As for bicycling, consider the death and injury rate on bicycles compared to cars. (These numbers are impossible to get...A comparison must be made of motor vehicles versus bikes when both are used for the same task, i.e. commuting to work). Let's see; a few tons of CO2 versus six weeks in a full-body cast....?


Your book is gona make allot more ads in the future.

David Leppik

The advertisement isn't clear, but I think they may be talking about their BlueTec diesels, which require an injection of urea (a component of urine.) If so, that's a remarkably suitable advertisement.