Framing the Dialogue

Earth Day 2009 – Take 3

It is hard to stop writing about all of the misinformation spread by the extreme environmental movement.  I do distinguish between the extreme activists and those like me.  I do recycle, I maintain two compost piles and a worm compost bin, I am using native species in the landscaping at my house, and my wife and I both drive SUVs.

I recently attended an Earth Day event and an auto dealer had some vehicles on display that probably catered to the environmentalist crowd.  One was a small Subaru station wagon.  I noticed that the estimated mileage for that car was several miles per gallon worse than for my SUV.  My car is not a full-sized Ford Excursion, but it is much bigger than the Subaru on display. 

I remembered a segment of one of my favorite TV shows on BBC called Top Gear.  They did a piece on the Holy Grail of environmental cars – The Toyota Prius.  In the segment they traced the nickel mined in Canada through its transportation, processing and its final destination in Japan to make batteries for the Prius.  While their presentation is humorous, their facts are essentially accurate.  The segment also pitted the Prius against a BMW M3 to compare mileage rates.  The M3 did better although they were driving at top speeds.

“It isn’t what you drive that matters, it’s how you drive it.  That is everything.”

Is the Prius all that it is purported to be as an environmental car.  There has been a great deal written about it, but most of the mainstream chatter glorifies it because it is a hybrid.  The claim is that the Prius is, for lack of a better term, a “green” car…or is it?

There seems to be conflicting information regarding the environmental impact of the manufacture and use of the Prius.  CNW Marketing Research looked all the energy costs associated with the manufacture and use of numerous automobiles.  One set of data pulled out of their study was used to show that the Hummer H3 had a smaller environmental impact than the Toyota Prius. 

That comparison was not the purpose of CNW’s Dust to Dust report, however, this information got the Prius huggers up in arms.  If you search the Internet, you will find many posts decrying the shortcomings of the Dust To Dust (“D2D”) paper.  A typical one was published by Slate.  Oddly enough, Slate did offer this admission regarding the Prius:

“The Prius attracts a large amount of venom, mostly from critics who specialize in knocking the stuffing out of straw men. These naysayers gleefully point out the hypocrisy of stars who drive Priuses while jetting around the globe in private planes or lambaste Toyota for milking the car for publicity.”

Unfortunately, maybe the folks who read Slate would not have the desire to investigate further.  CNW did not intend to bash the Prius, but the study was:

“intended and accomplished being able to provide a comparison between like products. For example, if someone is interested in or desires or needs a large Sport Utility, they can now compare the energy cost to society among the list of SUVs and select the most energy efficient model.  The same is true among small four passenger sedans. From that standpoint, the Prius is a miserable alternative to Corolla or Civic or a host of other like-sized vehicles.”

In a typical response for hard liners, they bashed the study when they had not read the report.  CNW’s response indicated that they were never contacted for copies of the study documents before critiques were written.  CNW’s second response to Slate and others provided more background defense.

“What is clear from those who like to bash Dust to Dust is that they have undeniable roots in agendadriven politics. If the issue were really Prius vs. Hummer, this would have already expanded among the D2D naysayers to include comparisons with other small four-door sedans. It has not. There is a long history of such groups being vehemently opposed to large sport utilities. And perhaps they should be.  But their honesty and agenda transparency come into question when the only method they use to discard the Dust to Dust findings is to single out the Hummer vs Prius rather than the Ford F150 vs the Toyota Tundra or the Honda Accord vs the Toyota Camry.”

So why buy a Prius?  I read an interesting article about Prius owners.  Toyota actually made a hybrid Camry, but the Prius vastly outsold this model.  In my opinion, the Camry is a much more stylish and attractive vehicle than a Prius.  The problem was that the only way that you could tell a hybrid Camry from a normal Camry was by the little plaque on the car that indicated that it was hybrid.

"Educating children about tangible, practical solutions to air pollution and global warming is so important," said Kate Bosworth. "As we use the magic of Hollywood to help them connect to a solution like the hybrid car, perhaps we can inspire kids to use their own imaginations to dream up other solutions for our future." I guess it is ok for Hollywood to misinform our children...they mean well.

People wanted others to know that they were driving a hybrid car and apparently the Camry did not offer the same visibility as the Prius.  CNW Marketing conducted a survey of Prius owners in 2007 and found that 57% stated that one of the top reasons that they purchased a Prius was that it “makes a statement about me.”  The New York Times reported that;

“The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber “issue bracelets” in yellow and other colors – it shows the world that its owner cares.”

Freud called this Narcissism.

I would call it “Form” over “Substance” and that is a common characteristic among popular environmental solutions.

4 CommentsLeave one

  1. Kevin says:

    Whenever I see a Prius, I think of the quote “In America, people love to brag about the good work they do anonymously.”

  2. Another Blog Title says:

    Another Title…

    Worm Composting is an good composting method. Not only do you get good quality compost but you also get the advantages of worm tea. You can also provide composting worms to your associates making a small income along the way……

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