Critical Thinking: Don’t get a Prius.

The hybrid car is a lie. Do not purchase one.

  1. The only reason the hybrid car exists is to allow auto manufacturers to continue selling grossly wasteful and polluting vehicles to consumers. Because California law requires an overall emissions target and minimum quantity of zero emissions vehicles, a manufacturer has to sell hybrid or electric powered vehicles in order to continue selling large commercial trucks to consumers as toys, and other sins.
  2. Purchasing a hybrid vehicle pays off the owner’s conscience in the best American way: with a unique product. The buyer feels a sense of moral superiority, the seller makes some money, and the essential problem continues. It’s no wonder the name of the most popular one sounds like “pious.”
  3. Buying a hybrid car means buying a new car. Don’t buy a new car. It’s true that as your hybrid car runs it will put less direct pollutant material in the air and water. It’s also true that it will use less gasoline. However, you have just bought a very large machine which was manufactured new. Add up the steel and aluminum, the machining and casting of parts, the chemicals used and dumped, the nonrenewable resources consumed or used to build the car, all the energy used to build a car and carry its materials around, the energy used to move the car around by ship and truck to the dealer, all of it. Making a car is a very top heavy resource-hungry industrial process.

    And your car doesn’t go away. Unless you have it artfully crushed into a cube as a coffee table, or personally supervise its recycling, your car is sold to another person and stays on the road. And that person’s car is sold down the line too, until we arrive at unusable or junked cars, which then go to a graveyard to be broken down. Everything about the car is toxic too, just in case you’re curious.

    So now you’ve brought a new car into the world (they’ll make more!) and given a nice big fat gut punch to Mother Nature in doing so. Failure.

  4. Keep your old car instead. If it’s not so run down that the mileage is shot, and it’s passing the emissions tests, it’s a better deal for “the planet” and for you also. It is not as demonstrative of your love for the GREEN GAIA to continue with your serviceable older car, but trust me, she appreciates it.
  5. nstead, do things that don’t burn fuel, or burn less. If you’re physically able, ride a bike more to short drives. Use public transit. Even in Southern Californian Heck, where I live, I can (and now I do) take the train into Los Angeles when I am able.
  6. It will be a great day for this country when Americans can look at a serious problem and do something other than pick up a lifestyle magazine and look for some product guides. Buying things is a terrible solution to so many things.

54 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: Don’t get a Prius.

  1. I just about punched this person I saw the other day with a “I’m doing my part! 45MPG” sticker the size of my torso on the back of their Prius. Our 1992 (or 1995?) Honda Civic gets 42MPG. Idiots.

      1. The would fit in way, way too well with our OC Motherfucking Goth Woman Wrecking Crew, I think.

  2. I have a ’94 Mazda Miata with about 365,000 miles on it. I don’t drive it anymore except to keep it from being ticketed on street sweeping days, and I don’t plan to replace it. (The primary family car is a recently made Mazda6, gets 30+ MPG, I don’t know. We only need one car now that I ride the bus to work every day.)
    All that said, do you know where I can have my old car artfully crushed down into a cube as a coffee table? Hopefully, some of that steel will be recycled, because I’d really rather not try to lift 1800 lbm of repurposed Mazda Miata into my living room.

    1. I know was very interested in making such coffee tables as soon as it was mentioned, and she’s good at artery. Maybe she could start with yours.

  3. And your car doesn’t go away. Unless you have it artfully crushed into a cube as a coffee table.
    hey, TOTALLY UNRELATED, but I think I’m gonna open up a furniture store in San Francisco – you want in?
    I’m glad I didn’t get a Prius.
    <3

      1. We will all live there and work there and it will be like the monkees but with lots more days-long crying jags and morning absinthe binges.

    1. When you open the Berkeley branch and we convince people to throw away their perfectly good furniture that they already have in order to purchase brand-new stuff because it is ECO-FRIENDLY and GREEN and they all congratulate themselves on this stroke of geniusness they are having, can I please work there because the Berkeley branch will be REALLY BEYOND GREAT.
      Also then there will be a Leah at each one. hi!

      1. other Leah, I did not know Leahs could be separated at birth but clearly WE WERE because that’s about the best idea ever. EVER.

  4. If people want to show their Wuv for the Earth, I’d prefer they use the same amount of money to buy their next dozen (or two) pimped-out imoportedimported bicycles. And that’s not just my Brompton lust talking.

    1. Leave it to America. We’ll somehow figure out how to make a hipster fixie out of 1.5 million barrels of Saudi oil and an endangered species.

      1. How could I forget? This is America.
        (Bah, that isn’t nearly as fun to say when I’m actually in the US.)

      2. ha ha
        no but i have a “one less christian” sticker that i still haven’t put on my bike.

    1. Oh man I forgot about that thing
      I want to buy vouchers that allow me to find and brutally beat TerraPass purchasers. It’s what the market wants; it has to happen.

  5. You can’t buy the strategy you don’t have
    This seems like a reasonable list and I agree with the theme…but I take issue with #3.
    It’s true that there are other viable transit options in many situations…even in SoCal. And as peak oil, pollution, gridlock and personal finance become larger issues, we will probably see more people driving (oh crap, a pun) improvements to our transit systems and land use policies. We are already seeing hints of changes to the established way of thinking with the declining appeal of suburban life. The road worshipping philosophies of Robert Moses, at least up here in crunchy Seattle, are also becoming less and less common.
    But until we have a system of commerce and transportation that supports these values, we have to deal with an infrastructure that was not developed with them in mind. And I wonder if the issue isn’t knotted enough that blacklisting a vehicle, that pollutes less, because of a disingenuous manufacturer washes over some of that complexity.

    1. Re: You can’t buy the strategy you don’t have
      I’m blacklisting an idea, not a car. the Idea is: Buy a new car to make things better.

      1. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        Fair enough…I took the title too literally.
        But, even if the hybrid exists so that car companies can sell their gas guzzlers too, it seems like the problem is not with the hybrids. The problem is still the sale of the gas-guzzlers that the hybrid enables. It’s still demand for irrationally large vehicles that serve fashion rather than function. It’s still CAFE standards that have not been appropriately adjusted to discourage the sale of these vehicles. And so on.
        I hear you on the need to drive less, use mass transit, ride a bike, walk more…but we will need time to adapt urban/suburban environments to support those activities. It looks like our record gas prices are encouraging this change in non-trivial ways so maybe $12.00/gallon gas will encourage faster progress.
        The well educated with disposable income will choose their cars until they are presented with viable alternatives or until they face undesirable circumstances that motivate them to change.

      2. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        Hypocrisy is the debt vice pays to virtue.
        I maintain that the hybrids are actively a problem because they make no sense for the manufacturer except as a fig leaf for their real business selling very damaging vehicles. If the hybrids were a substantial portion of their output, or weren’t heavily subsidized, that would be interesting.
        Buying a new hybrid rather than staying with used efficient gas cars puts more money in the system, uses more resources, gives them an ad on wheels for their ploy, and soothes the buyer into thinking they did something right. If you hold back your new car money until MOST of the cars are PZEV and efficient, they have to pay more attention, no?
        The well educated with disposable income should stop buying cars for a while. Nothing would scare these guys like Joe Six Pack buying used and Professor Phd doing the same. Acres of unsold Priuses and Tacomas makes change.

  6. Also: Flexcar (which is now Zipcar) is a sort of time-sharing car rental sort of thing that I know works really well in Boston and Portland (and other cities, too.) I have a number of friends who gave up their car (and the associated maintenance, insurance, and downtown parking costs, not to mention pollution) in favor of Flexcar. When you have a car in the garage, it’s easy to take needless trips. Without a car in the garage, you walk/bike/bus more and save scheduling the car parked a few blocks over for larger-cargo trips.

  7. The good is the enemy of the best
    Now, some of this maybe company propaganda, but it appears that the environmental impact of a Prius in the manufacture and disposal stages is significantly, if still only incrementally, better than that of conventional motor vehicle:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080512170921AA2Btbz
    Also, so far, it seems like that the Prius is well-made and reliable, and should last a long time. It’s at least, if not more recyclable, than average car. I really wouldn’t worry about the recycling issue for most of the car in general – there’s a great market in scrap metal, and economic pressure that kind of reuse is only increasing.
    Yes, it would be better if everybody could get around without a car, but even in the relatively dense and transit-friendly areas of the country, it’s the only realistic strategy for getting around. It’s going to take a while before transit networks and land-use patterns catch up with better arrangements.

    1. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
      That’s good to hear. I still think that buying a new car is the opposite of helping the environment. I seriously wonder how many owners of shiny new hybrids could have got away with keeping the one they had and living more car-light.

      1. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        It’s not like when you buy a new car the old one is hauled to the landfill. That car is sold to someone that may have ended up buying a new car because they could not find “the perfect used car that they wanted”. Or it would be sold to someone that wanted a new car, but couldn’t afford it.
        The cars are already built.
        All not buying the new car is going to accomplish is that the manufacturer may decide to stop producing a particular car earlier than they intended to because of poor sales. Which achieves just about nothing. There will be a different car to take that particular model’s place. All the cars that were already produced will sit on the showroom until they are sold. The manufacturer will suffer losses which will spurn them to attempt to figure out why the car didn’t sell, and produce future cars that will not fall into the same pitfall.
        Choosing to continue to drive your polluting old piece of crap will only assist in increasing hydrocarbon emissions, more than likely with an increase in the heavier hydrocarbons (from burning oil), and the eventual decision of the manufacturers that the consumer does not want a hybrid or otherwise energy efficient car (since the suv owners will continue to buy new suvs and continue to waste and pollute as they please). They will, in turn, take every effort to lobby for the reduction of the requirement for energy efficient vehicles since lack of consumer demand and sales is hurting them and they have the proof to back it up. The single most important result in buying a hybrid is the direct communication to the car manufacturers that the people want something that is more energy efficient, and more healthy for the environment, regardless if the car, in the long run, actually is. This will guide the manufacturers decision on what kinds of cars to build and what kind of technologies to pursue. If that spurs them in the direction of greener technologies, rather than more fast and the furious or bling, won’t that have a more effective long term benefit?
        This is xtreme_pr0k, by the way, too lazy to login.

      2. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        To add to your argument—
        There is also the trick-down effect. Cars built 20+ years ago were junk compared to cars built from the mid-90’s on. They are more fuel efficient, safer, cleaner and more reliable (people mentioned the honda Civic). If the middle and upper classes did not continue to buy new cars every 5 years, then there would be a diminished supply of quality used cars available to those that cannot afford a new car. I think that it is an improvement that we now longer see cars built between 1974 and 1985 anymore. Keeping the Chevy Cavilers, Mustang 5.0s, Cameros and other V6 and V8 off of the road without antilock brakes and airbags is a good thing.
        And I think that this argument will still hold true 20 years from now. I hope that the consumer can make the car companies change what they sell through selective purchasing. It makes me smile that no one wants the H2 anymore. I think that the future of plug in hybrids, increased home solar usage, and better battery storage technology, will over time make the US more energy efficient by increasing the supply of energy and storage. But, like everything else, the consumer of today needs to help fuel the demand and fund the R&D of the future and that starts with making better buying of new car choices today.

      3. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        No one wants the H2 because gas prices went up. But the hybrid aren’t optimized for fuel economy. They’re optimized for emissions. If you want to use less fuel, get a diesel.
        If the middle and upper classes didn’t buy new cars every 5 years I would be delighted. Just the aluminum that goes into a new car is an insane piece of energy. It’s true that the newer cars are more efficient — my 7 year old Acura is a dream — but less cars is the best thing possible. Less cars, and less use of cars.
        The car just needs to go away and become a rich man’s hobby, like horses. In between then and now I seriously urge anyone who cares to keep the workable car they have, only buy used cars, and drive less.

      4. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        I agree that the car doesn’t go to the landfill. It’s just one more car in the big stack. But if not all those cars sell, they make less the next year. Consumption drives this whole engine, right?
        I also agree about sending the message. I think the message has been sent, but unfortunately the message is this: well-educated people with disposable income will buy a new hybrid instead of reducing their car use with their current car.
        Some of the hybrid tech has been great. I particularly liked the (not built) pickup truck that was a diesel-electric hybrid with built-in generator for contractors. But the current hybrid tech solves only one problem, which is: how can we keep selling gas guzzling polluters in California?
        You can’t solve an environmental problem with a product. The problem is solved by buying less products and consuming less. I still maintain that keeping the current car in working order and not buying any new car at all is the best thing you can do.
        Looks like you were already logged in! Lazy guy.

      5. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        It all depends on the problem you are trying to fix. Keeping the same car fixes the problem of potential increased solid and liquid waste from new car production (potential since some car manufacturers, like subaru, work pretty hard at not producing waste and purchasing materials from manufacturers that do likewise) as well as the possible remediation methods taken by the manufacturers and/or the increased number of cars in landfills. It does absolutely nothing to decrease the amount of pollutants emitted by the vehicles currently being driven. (Not that my solution fixes that immediately, but taking pbd’s concept of the acceleration of the car’s life cycle due to the constant push through the monetary food chain, it gets the more pollutant cars off the road much faster.) As a matter of fact, it helps to ensure that the worst polluters stay on the road as long as possible. The more lenient emissions restrictions on older cars allow them to be considered acceptable even when they start to break down and pollute more.
        So you are looking towards less material pollution and I am looking towards less air pollution. I believe they are both important, but which one is more so?
        which one? oh the agony of choice!

      6. Re: The good is the enemy of the best
        It’s not just the waste from car production. It’s the energy and the use of nonrenewable resources that go into just making the car. Aluminum is congealed electricity. Acceleration of the lifecycle means more iron and steel used, more aluminum smelted, more trains and trucks carrying stuff, more fuel burning to run the factories and their suppliers. It’s consumption to make a consumer good.
        I agree in the extreme case. If you have 1977 El Torino with three oil leaks and you floor it all the time, you’re an asshole and the car is part of the problem. But there are plenty of cars on the market; the used market is huge. I can’t find any way to add it up so that buying a new shiny hybrid car is better for the environment unless you 1) absolutely need a new (not used) car, or 2) cannot find a used car that gets reasonable emissions nad efficiency ratings (impossible!).
        We need to go beyond “how can we solve this problem with a product” to “how can we solve this problem.” In the case of cars, my answer is: less less less less less of everything.

  8. generally usefulish.
    p1: the first problem is that the California Clean Air Initiatives were shot down when GM decided that it wanted to prevent itself from taking advantage of it’s lead in the ZEV that it had with the electric cars that it was making. SO they brokered a deal with the California Clean Air Board to stop it from offering GM an unbridled head start.
    p2: the Hybrid Car was the Also Ran in the process.
    But since you are trying to argue about a process, rather than a type of car, there are some deeper issues that will need to be addressed. This may be a great time to read Kevin Phillip’s Bad Money as the “Peak Oil” meets the “global warming” trend is only a part of the problem that americans face, given the unwrapping of the FINANCIALIZATION of the american economy.
    Unless americans want to back the ‘winning side’ in the ‘resource wars’ they may not be in a position to have the money to buy foreign made products that will no longer be shipped to the americans until they have a convertable currency accepted in the rest of the world.
    So if Process is the Concern, maybe it is time to step back and really address the core process issues.

    1. Re: generally usefulish.
      Many processes are of concern, and there isn’t One Solution to Everything except in the Kooks Museum.
      I don’t see what’s so hard about “stop buying products to stop a consumption problem” as a concept, though.

      1. Re: generally usefulish.
        The idea is interesting, but it is not just a ‘consumption’ problem, it is a part of the rest of the problem set. The Hybrids are an improvement over the conventional cars.
        I always find it amusing that in the ‘hate hybrid cars’ game set is this need to justify the Hummer, and that with the leather seats, but NO .50 HMG, nor a Grenade Launcher… Which will be very practical vehicles, since we can always market them as ‘winning the resource wars’. And get a two-fer, sell some video games and a chance for a live walk on at army.com….
        I am not advocating a one size fits all, rather amused that you started out an argument without addressing that it’s starting premise, the california emmission board trade, had been dead for how long now, and has not been an influence in that part of the debate for seasons.
        While in the same time frame the collapse of our CDO/SIV and other TLA Financial BuzzPhrases we have been trading Japan so we can get the Hybrids are in serious trouble. Hence the amusement at the current ‘hybrids bad’ gambit, with no real substitute solution space.
        It would be nice if we could all just retreat to the Orange Country of “Scanner Darkley” fame, but the world has moved forward, and we have to come up with a political prioritization of which of the catastrophe are we going to be able to fix, and which are just going to have to be lived with.

      2. Re: generally usefulish.
        I’m not interested in the Hummer. It’s a disaster in every way.
        CARB is still requiring zero/ultra low emissions cars. Otherwise these hybrids would not exist.
        I don’t feel the need to provide a substitute solution space when the “solution” of hybrid cars is such a laughable lie. Any solution that doesn’t begin with “use less stuff” is another problem.
        And I have no idea what Phil Dick’s dystopia has to do with this.

      3. Re: generally usefulish.
        CARB IS DEAD!
        The advantage that the HYBRIDS have is that they offer a way forward. And NOT because of any play acting about it in California. They are a stop gap at best. So the real fun comes as we start working on the problem of what to do with ‘peak oil’, and a down cycle in the american dollar. Americans have had the fun of watching what happens as their dollar is not buying as many BTU’s of power for the system creating their food, and their failure to plan ahead as to which ‘crops’ to recycle into ‘bio-diesal alternatives’ – such as the Corn based Ethanol….
        I mean if you want to laugh about bad solutions, there are more than enough of them…
        Laughing at the Hybrid Cars is a nice way of saying one does not want to find any way forward. One simply feels safe joining the crowd of those who do not want to deal with the issues.
        Using less stuff is what naturally comes about in a deflationary spiral. Which we may well get to learn more about first hand as americans run out of tradable resources – hence also a part of the Philip K. Dick Dystopia Reference.
        So there are some fun things we can talk about here – what would it take to GET CARB back on line where it might be a useful means for actually addressing things like fuel efficiency and emissions policy, and how those will need to be integrated into the bigger set of issues about peak oil, and the collapse of the Dollar as the reserve currancy linked to Oil.
        All of which needs to be put back into the context of whether or not americans REALLY want to deal with this or any of the other issues, or will they be happy enough to just be warm and patriotic, one more memorial day, since of course they are still supporting the troops, by being patriotic, and isn’t that enough to win the ‘resource wars’ that will get us the resources we need….

      4. Re: generally usefulish.
        Laughing at the Hybrid Cars is a nice way of saying one does not want to find any way forward. One simply feels safe joining the crowd of those who do not want to deal with the issues.
        BULLSHIT. False equivalence and false dichotomy. I do have a solution. It’s called don’t buy a new car and use your car less. Don’t try that tired shit on me, come on. You know better.

      5. Re: generally usefulish.
        why not go for something more american.
        Unlike back in 1977 when Scaner Darkly came out as a thinly veneered dystopia revolving around the complications of Nixon’s Deal to connect the Dollar to Oil, and the impact back then, when americans were still blithely optomistic about the Carter Days, we live in greater times.
        As a nation we have accepted that we can invade any country we want for real or imaginary reasons.
        We have also come to accept torture and privatizing the torture industry.
        So why shouldn’t americans expect that their government will do what has to be done to drive down the consumption abroad in India And China that have been the demand side influences both for Oil Prices, as well and increasing the carbon emmissions.
        Hence by selective nuking of india and china, as starting targets, we can improve the market in a more effective manner, as the demand for oil drops!!! and the overseas sources of green house gasses drop.
        This will do something about your alledged concern about both Oil and Green House gases.
        Simply hoping that we all put on a sweater and majikally maintain less fuel effecient cars for tradition sake is NOT an actual argument.
        So now, want to bring on the ‘real shit’…

      6. Re: generally usefulish.
        So now I’m apparently disingenuous and dishonest somehow, a person with an “alledged” [sic] sic concern. And I apparently believe in “majikally” [sic] fixing things, and I don’t have an actual argument.
        You are being a dick, which is different from an actual argument. We’ve arrived at the Pointless Zone.
        Don’t stuff words in my mouth, or use me to attack some limousine liberal straw man. The assumptions you make have nothing to do with the things I actually say, and a lot to do with the things other people say that annoy you. You clearly have very strong opinions and a deeply lysergic view of the world, and I can’t pick out the genuine ideas from the word salad and posturing, and in short we’re speaking a different language. Let’s call the whole thing off.

  9. Yay! Especially about buying things to solve problems created by gross over-consumption of limited resources. Like that whole Product (RED)TARDED thing. What? Stupidity/Bono ensues.

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