Wednesday, July 25, 2007

They Hate Us For Our High MPG

I'm proud to say I drive a Prius. What does Robert Samuelson drive? He's not telling.

I want to know what Robert Samuelson drives. He insults me and all other Prius owners with his column today, calling us "show-offs" who aren't serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Hey, message to you, moron, I can't change the government's CAFE standards. I can only change my own, and now I get 48 MPG instead of 28 MPG. That's not some theoretical goal. That's my mileage today.

He also derides Prius owners for buying the Prius instead of Honda's Civic hybrid, which gets 10 miles per gallon less for the same price. That's not style, bonehead, that's performance. Why pay the same for less?

I bet he drives some big gas-guzzling SUV.

Robert Samuelson, WaPo: Prius Politics

My younger son calls the Toyota Prius a "hippie car," and he has a point. Not that Prius drivers are hippies. Toyota says that typical buyers are 54 and have incomes of $99,800; 81 percent are college graduates. But, like hippies, they're making a loud lifestyle statement: We're saving the planet; what are you doing?

This helps explain why the Prius so outsells the rival Honda Civic Hybrid. Both have similar base prices, about $22,000, and fuel economy (Prius, 60 miles per gallon city/51 highway; Civic, 49 mpg city/51 highway). But Prius sales in the first half of 2007 totaled 94,503, nearly equal to all of 2006. Civic sales were only 17,141, up 7.4 percent from 2006. The Prius's advantage is its distinct design, which announces its owners as environmentally virtuous. It's a fashion statement. Meanwhile, the Civic hybrid can't be distinguished by appearance from the polluting, gas-guzzling mob.

The Prius is, I think, a parable for the broader politics of global warming. Prius politics is mostly about showing off, not curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Politicians pander to "green" constituents who want to feel good about themselves. Grandiose goals are declared. But measures to achieve them are deferred -- or don't exist.


Deep reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases might someday occur if both plug-in hybrid vehicles and underground storage of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants become commercially viable. Meanwhile, Prius politics is a delusional exercise in public relations that, while not helping the environment, might hurt the economy.

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