An Ol’ Broad’s Ramblings

June 4, 2007

More Vs Less

Filed under: Economy, Environment — olbroad @ 10:40

The Hummer vs. the Prius

PITY THE poor Hummer. It seems as if almost everyone — with our governor as the notable exception — loves to pick on it as the big bad boy of environmental contamination.

But this is America. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that someone would make the case that the Hummer is actually greener than the Toyota Prius and other hybrids that are the favorites of the “save the planet” crowd.

A 450-page report by the Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research, an “automotive marketing company,” has come to this startling conclusion: The Hummer H1, H2 and H3 are more energy efficient than a Toyota Prius hybrid and many other smaller vehicles.

The biggest problem I have with the Prius….it’s ugly! Not only that, you can’t carry anything in it. What if you’re going on a week long family trip, Mom, Dad, two kids. Where do you put the kids? Being a female, I’d have at least 2 suitcases, so there’d be no room for children, no matter how small they are…unless you put them on the hood. Naturally, the dad has to be inside….he’s got the cash and credit cards to pay for the trip. Don’t want to tick him off too much, right? To me, it would be MUCH more efficient to have the larger vehicle. That way, you can have your luggage and the kids inside.

But what about all those reports that the Toyota Prius gets about 50 miles per gallon, and the Hummer averages about 8 to 10?

According to the CNW report, titled “Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles from Concept to Disposal,” that’s not the way to calculate energy efficiency. You also have to factor in the amount of energy it takes to produce the vehicle before it gets on the road — and the amount used to dispose of it.

By that calculation, the Hummer comes out far ahead. In “dollars per lifetime miles,” a Prius’ “energy costs” average $3.25 per mile, compared to a mere $1.95 per mile for a Hummer H3.

And the Prius is still ugly.

Enter the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based environmental think-tank, with a counter-report alleging that the CNW report is based on “faulty methods of analysis, untenable assumptions, selective use and presentation of data, and a complete lack of peer review.” Among its most flawed assumption: the average H1 Hummer is assumed to last 35 years, and travel 379,000 miles, while the average Prius is assumed to last only 109,000 miles over 12 years.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a vehicle that will last 35 years, instead of just 12? Obviously, you have to do routine maintenance, which, in my understanding, is easier to get for a Hummer than Prius, but I might be wrong.

The lesson here is to beware of junk science. If you want to do your part to fight global warming, it probably doesn’t make sense to trade in your Prius for a Hummer.

But I thought the left LIVED by ‘junk science’?

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9 Comments »

  1. I’m afraid you have a number of misconceptions about the Prius. If your subjective opinion is that it is intolerably ugly, no one can really question you on that. But please do not let a visceral dislike lead you into becoming a gullible conduit for absurd factual errors:

    1) The Prius is not small, or any smaller than a Camry or Accord. You can confirm this on Edumunds.com or any number of other sites. I rented a Jeep SUV a few weekends back that had less back seat space and fit less camping gear than my Prius.

    2) The CNW report is widely discredited. It is by a marketing firm (not the first place to look for an engineering study) and contradicts every other previous look into the same issues by such reputable entities as MIT and the Argonne national laboratories.

    3) CNW is unable to provide any substantive backing for its claim that the Prius has a shorter lifetime or will last for fewer miles than a Hummer — a rather absurd claim on its face. You seem to have missed the point of the Pacific Institute, which is precisely that those lifetime mileage numbers are among CNW’s “most flawed assumptions.”

    4) The Prius is consistently ranked as one of the most reliable cars and as having the lowest maintenance costs — the Hummer, for all its simplicity, is not a contender by this measure.

    Believe me, junk science is a bipartisan issue. It has more to do with human nature than political leanings. But surely the cure is not propagating more junk science in a race to the bottom.

    Comment by J. Myers — June 4, 2007 @ 11:51

  2. Uh huh….and it’s still bloomin’ ugly.

    I wouldn’t buy a Corolla now either cuz it’s too tiny. The one I had was actually people sized. They aren’t any more. When they come up with a people sized hybrid, or whatever, that will also carry luggage, then I’ll consider getting one. Until then….pfffft! 🙂

    Comment by olbroad — June 4, 2007 @ 12:11

  3. The CNW report is indeed discredited. Besides, there are other reasons besides environmental for buying a Prius; patriotic, for instance. After all, Energy Independence is Homeland Security. If every vehicle in the US got just 8mpg better gas mileage, we’d be free of foreign oil. As it is, we’re funding bothsides of the war on terror. We didn’t have terrorism problems when oil was selling at $20/barrel. Finally, the tech in the Prius is just so damn kewl.

    Comment by rhkennerly — June 4, 2007 @ 2:01

  4. How ’bout we drill in our own country where there is plenty of oil…and build the refineries needed.

    Comment by olbroad — June 4, 2007 @ 3:19

  5. “When they come up with a people sized hybrid, or whatever, that will also carry luggage, then I’ll consider getting one.”

    Wow, most people think of a Camry or Accord as a normal sized sedan. But here’s three hybrid SUVs, from cheapest to most expensive:

    *Ford Escape (American! 30 mpg)
    *Toyota Highlander
    *Lexus Rx400h

    “How ’bout we drill in our own country where there is plenty of oil…and build the refineries needed.”

    The problem is, from all I’ve read, America does not have enough likely oil deposits to support a nation of cars that get

    Comment by J. Myers — June 21, 2007 @ 10:11

  6. Oops, cut off. Continued . . .

    that get

    Comment by J. Myers — June 21, 2007 @ 10:15

  7. Ah, got it, no “less than” signs allowed. One more try:

    The problem is, from all I’ve read, America does not have enough likely oil deposits to support a nation of cars that get less than 20 mpg. The most we could do with drilling is knock a few days off our imports, maybe a month. But if everyone drove a car that got 40 mpg, we could do without any oil imports at all.

    So where do we spend our money? On drilling in really difficult environments (in the arctic circle, or way off shore) for expensive oil that Arabs can easily undersell us on? Or on developing more efficient cars that appeal to a broad swath of American consumers?

    I totally understand that some folks just don’t like the way Prius looks and that’s ok. But hybrid technology is solid, and it should be American manufacturers leading the way on making efficient cars that Americans like, not the Japanese. That’s just lame, and none too bright, either. American consumers need to start *demanding* efficient cars that we *like* from *American* manufacturers, and American manufacturers have to stop making lame excuses as to why they can’t do it but someone else can. I want a Camero that gets 40 mpg, damn it!

    Comment by J. Myers — June 21, 2007 @ 10:28

  8. Sorry, don’t post at this site anymore, so I’m behind. 🙂

    Actually, there is a LOT of oil in within our borders. The problem is, the moonbats won’t let us drill, nor will they allow new, much needed refineries to be built. I’m all for more fuel efficient cars, but I will NOT pay good money for a Ford. Long story on why, that I won’t go into.

    Comment by olbroad — June 23, 2007 @ 6:51

  9. You’re right, there is a lot of oil in our borders. Just not nearly as much as we consume. The figures I am going to cite are all from the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

    U.S. Consumption, Annual-Thousand Barrels: 7,592,789
    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_cons_psup_dc_nus_mbbl_a.htm

    U.S. Production, Annual-Thousand Barrels: 1,890,106
    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_crd_crpdn_adc_mbbl_a.htm

    U.S. Proved reserves: 21,757 (Million Barrels of 42 U.S. Gallons)
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/data_publications/crude_oil_natural_gas_reserves/current/pdf/ch3.pdf#page=2

    Saudi Arabia Proved Reserves: 261.9 billion barrels
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/saudi.html

    So, let’s convert all those thousands and millions and billions into straight-up barrels:

    U.S. Annual Consumption: 7,592,789,000 barrels.

    U.S. Annual Production: 1,890,106,000

    U.S. Proven Reserves: 21,757,000,000

    Saudi Arabia Proven Reserves: 261,900,000,000.

    U.S. Reserves are equal to three years of our annual consumption, assuming our consumption doesn’t grow and we can tap it all in three years (tough, because a lot of it is off shore or in the arctic circle). It’s more likely that we’ll spend a lot more to tap oil that’s hard to get while our overall production steadily declines and our consumption steadily increases.

    Saudi reserves are ten times U.S. reserves, enough to keep us going 30 years at our current consumption levels, and it is all much, much more easily accessible than our oil reserves. All the other big reserves are in countries who are all very friendly to us (that’s sarcasm), like Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. Guess who is going to be making the cheap oil that we have no choice but to buy to drive our big cars? Won’t it be fun giving them our money! If the Indians and Chinese don’t offer them more than we can afford, that is . . .

    Here’s an excellent summary of our situation from Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves:
    United States proven oil reserves declined to a little more than 21 gigabarrels by the end of 2004 according to the Energy Information Administration, a 46% decline from the 39 gigabarrels it had in 1970 when the huge Alaska North Slope (‘ANS’) reserves were booked. Since there have been millions of oil wells drilled in the US and there is nowhere left for an elephant the size of ANS to remain hidden, it appears that US oil reserves are on a permanent downward slide. As oil fields get closer to the end of production, estimates of what is left become more accurate. Consequently, US oil reserve numbers are very accurate compared to those of other countries.

    United States crude oil production peaked in late 1970 at over 4 gigabarrels per year, but declined to 1.8 gigabarrels per year by early 2006 . . . In early 2007, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy projected that in 2007 oil consumption would rise to 20.9 million barrels per day, while oil production would fall to 5.1 million barrels per day, meaning that oil consumption would be nearly four times as high as oil production.

    OK, now, here’s how much of U.S. oil consumption is used by automobiles?

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/oil_market_basics/demand_text.htm#U.S.%20Consumption%20by%20sector
    “Gasoline . . . consumption accounts for almost 45 percent of all oil use.”

    These are just facts, and it seems to me that the conclusions we should draw are just simple math, but do with them as you will. For me, they take all the fun out of big engines with low mileage. I have kids, you know. I love my country. I’m very, very worried about this.

    Thanks for letting me go on, you seem like a really nice person.

    Comment by Jon — June 30, 2007 @ 1:22


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