Thursday, March 15, 2007

Surprise! Prius is Now Anti-Environment!

The Toyota Prius has become the darling of the environmentally conscious because of its hybrid technology. It has two engines instead of one. It overcomes the limitations of electric vehicles by having a gasoline engine as well. The gasoline engine powers the vehicle up to 30 mph and when additional thrust is needed at higher speeds. The electric engine powers the car at cruising speeds above 30 mph. The battery is recharged when the brakes are applied and when the gas engine in operating above 30 mph.

Because of the dual technology, the Prius got an astonishing EPA estimate of 60 miles per gallon in city driving, 51 on the highway, and drew praise from environmentalists. But according to Edmunds.com, the auto shopping site, the Prius costs $9,500 more than a comparable conventional vehicle. So the “green” benefit was always very expensive. Now it has turned out to be even more so, and the argument for its energy conservation has evaporated. EPA mileage estimates have long been criticized as inaccurate because, for example, they limited highway speed mileage to 55 mph and acceleration to only 3.3mph per second. Even EPA admitted this was unrealistic and has now provided more accurate mileage estimations. The new Prius overall estimate is down 25 percent--close to the mileage for conventional cars costing less than half as much.

That's just the beginning, according to Chris Demorro writing in The Recorder. The Prius causes far more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road three times longer. All the nickel in Prius batteries—1,000 tons annually—is purchased from a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. The plant has caused such environmental damage from sulfur dioxide emissions that the surrounding area is devoid of life for miles and was used by NASA to test moon rovers.

The nickel mined is shipped to Europe for refining, then to China for further processing, then to Japan, where the batteries are fabricated. The batteries are then shipped to the United States. Thus lots of energy is expended in transportation to produce something that is supposed to conserve transportation energy for the consumer.

A study by CNW Marketing calculated the combined energy costs from electrical, fuel, material (metal, plastic, etc.) and other factors over the expected life of the Prius, which is 100,000 miles. The Prius averaged $3.25 per mile. Meanwhile, the Hummer, which is excoriated as a Goliath of wasteful extravagance, costs only $1.95 per mile over a lifetime of 300,000 miles. It last 3 times longer than the Prius and conserves energy.

Here is just one more example of politicians believing they can direct the economic actions of society better than the marketplace—and producing results opposite to those intended. Government passed CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) laws requiring increased mileage in the belief that the result would be more economical and efficient cars that would conserve energy. So resources, both financial and labor, were diverted from more useful enterprises to creating cars with better mileage ratings. This was not merely to meet current CAFE standards but to offer a way to meet the threats of future increases in the standards, which politicians and environmental groups regularly demand.

The full cost of this government-promoted economic waste will never be known, because we will never see the more useful things that would have been created had the resources not been diverted. Resources are never unlimited; the free market channels resources to enterprises most useful to society, as determined by the economic choices of the people. The choices of the politicians necessarily displace the economic choices of the people, leaving society poorer than it otherwise would be. That's why freer economies are always more prosperous and the people healthier and better off than in societies with less free economies.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Additional surprises here about the CAFE standards:

http://www.cei.org/gencon/019,05816.cfm

Is there no end to the helpfulness of these folks?

Great post Ed, I appreciate your work.

Sunz

Edmund Contoski said...

Thanks. The URL mentioned above by Sunz gives a good article by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It quotes a study by the National Academy of Sciences that CAFE standards result in 2000 deaths annually. That study was done in 2002 and a more recent estimate has raised that number of fatalities substantially, but I don't recall what the latest estimate is. For more on auto safety, see my 3,000-word booklet "Have Government Regulations Made Your Car Safer--or More Dangerous?" available for $3.95 from American Liberty Publishers. (Click on the LINK to ALP for ordering information.) It cites a number of facts from research studies that are not well known and destroy the popular myths about benefits of government auto safety regulations. My book MAKERS AND TAKERS also has info on this subject. This book can be ordered from Amazon.com or any bookstore; but if you order from the ALP website, you can get your book autographed and avoid any shipping charge. Now,here's a deal for you: if you, or anyone else reading this, order the book from the American Liberty Publishers website before the end of this month, March 2007, I'll throw in the auto safety booklet FREE.

Rod Guilmette said...

Well known laws:

Any action will result in an equal and opposite reaction.

Energy cannot be destroyed - it can only be transformed.

My question:
(Note: I am talking globally and long term)

Can energy be conserved - is conservation of energy a myth?

Would massive attempts at conserving energy result in a lowering of the "standard of living?" and if so, whose standard of living?

Simple example:
Instead of driving a car to get groceries, I buy a bicycle to go to the store.

Problems (just some of them):

-- The fuel expended is me burning calories. I will need more fuel (food)to power the bike.

-- I will have to make more trips because I cannot carry enough on the bicycle to load up for one week. Plus, I need more because I have to put energy into the engine (me).

-- I have to be very careful about perishables and frozen items.

Meanwhile, I am not paying excise taxes on gasoline, not buying a new car, not having my car serviced...the list goes on.

All the above ultimately involve energy and stand of living.

Anonymous said...

hey, very interesting article, i agree and feel the same way, but i was wondering if you could cite your sources on the information

Edmund Contoski said...

Sources for this article included The New York Times April 16,2006, The Wall Street Journal Dec. 14, 2005 and The Recorder, March 7, 2007. Unfortunately, further investigation has revealed that the information from the last of these sources, which was written by Chris Demorro, is incorrect. However, the New York Times article stated that the hybrid battery pack, which weighs more than 100 pounds, “poses a major environmental hazard.” In addition, a very recent article in the Wall Street Journal (October 23, 2008) notes that insurance and repair costs are higher for hybrids than for other vehicles. This is true regardless of driver profile. The article says that repair costs are higher because after-market replacement parts can't be used and repairs take longer. As an example of the higher insurance costs, the 2009 Camry hybrid costs an average $1,957 to insure for a 40-year old male driver, compared to just $1,302 for a conventional 2009 Camry, according to Insure.com., an online insurance broker. Edmunds.com states: “According to State Farm, the nation's largest car insurer, hybrid vehicles are more expensive to fix because their parts tend to be pricy to replace and mechanics who work on hybrids require special training, which results in higher labor bills....Mitchell International, a San Diego-based company that provides parts and labor data to the insurance industry, noted in a report released earlier this year that labor costs for mechanical work on a hybrid average $94.45 per hour versus $79.05 per hour for a non-hybrid vehicle.”