Forbes takes a contrarian view: don’t buy green

cherrygarcia.jpgForbes argues that green consumers should lay off the green goods (free registration required). Items like hybrid cars, organic food, and Ethos bottled water cause more environmental harm than help, the article claims. I like a good contrarian argument probably even more than the next guy, so let’s see how Forbes’ examples stand up.

Say no to hybrids
The entirely odd criticism of hybrid cars rests on the foundation that they cost more than conventional cars. True enough, but what does this have to do with environmental impact? “The hybrid’s steep price tag is a signal that, directly or indirectly, it consumes a lot of the earth’s resources.” It is? Really? Many green goods carry a price premium over their conventional counterparts. The premium usually reflects the fact that — wait for it — these items are more expensive to produce. Although a higher price tag could in theory reflect heavier resource use, it could also reflect about a thousand other things. To take only the most obvious of about a billion possible counterexamples: electricity from wind costs more to produce than electricity from coal.

There is a potentially interesting point to be made about the energy content of hybrids. As the article notes, hybrids contain a lot more copper and nickel than conventional cars, and the mining of these metals can extract a heavy toll on the earth. I would be interested in seeing a careful assessment of the environmental pros and cons of hybrid technology. But rather than doing any of the heavy analytical lifting, the article just punts: “Calculating the gains and losses would be quite a chore, even for an engineer.”

While I admire the baldness of this statement, I suggest next time calling an engineer.

Ban organic
The article next takes aim at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which presumably is meant to stand in for organic grocery items more generally. Because the milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is free of hormones, the reasoning goes, the cows are less efficient than they otherwise would be. They therefore emit more methane and require more beautiful Costa Rican cloud forest to be bulldozed for pasture (or something). Forbes’ conclusion: “Green consumers should buy Breyers instead.”

This line of reasoning is so weirdly divorced from reality that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s set aside the ethical considerations of treating cows as production units whose sole virtue is efficiency. Let’s further set aside the fact that no one with any knowledge of how food is produced would ever claim that modern farming practices are good for the environment (fun fact: 80% of the energy content of supermarket produce comes from fossil fuels).

Instead let’s be hardnosed about this and just look at the economics of the issue. Ben & Jerry’s costs about twice as much per ounce as Breyers. Is this because it causes twice the environmental degradation as Breyers? Of course not. Ben and Jerry’s uses more expensive ingredients and carries a brand premium. Assuming demand for ice cream is reasonably elastic, shifting consumption to Ben & Jerry’s means less ice cream consumed overall, which means reduced environmental impact. Our conclusion: Buy the hippie frozen milk.

Steer clear of ethical bottled water
Finally, the article goes after Ethos bottled water, a Starbucks-owned brand that donates a portion of proceeds to developing clean water supplies in poor countries. We’d be better off drinking tap water and making a donation directly to Care USA, says the author.

This is pretty small beer, but here at last we agree. The energy content of bottled water is ludicrously high, particularly if you’re having it sent over from Fiji, where the hydrogen and oxygen is apparently less tainted than elsewhere in the universe (until it sees the inside of a container ship, I suppose). Add in the disposable plastic bottle, and you’ve got yourself a small scale environmental disaster.

Don’t like the taste of tap? Get yourself a Brita filter and a Nalgene. And remember to send that check to Care.

Author Bio

adam

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  1. theo - September 27, 2006

    That Ben & Jerry’s argument is bizarre. All other things are not equal. Don’t Ben & Jerry’s buy their milk from, in large part, Vermont family farms? Don’t the energy inputs to those differ from industrial scale milk production? And if either of the companies is destroying forest land for pasture, it’s certainly going to be Breyer’s.
    Contrarianism, especially from conservative-inclined economists, is predictable and boring.

  2. disdaniel - September 27, 2006

    “The hybrid’s steep price tag is a signal that, directly or indirectly, it consumes a lot of the earth’s resources”
    Uhm yes we are talking about a CAR here, not a potatoe chip.
    By the author’s logic a super luxury car uses 10x as many resources as a budget car. (I’d be curious what the author thinks about the resource intensity of diamonds.)
    Or perhaps the technology is not as mature, or not made in large enough quantities (or by enough vendors) or maybe it is that hybrids have both a traditional engine and an electric one.
    Does this guy think a product that works better (pollutes less) and costs less to operate should be sold at a discount?

  3. Terry Lawhead - September 27, 2006

    Great response to the Forbes editorial position. I work in renewable fuels and have heard the same argument. The “real costs” are higher for products that try to transparently reduce a carbon footprint and be responsible about it. Thank you.

  4. Daveg - September 27, 2006

    RE: the Hybrid cars. These companies are trying to recoup the RD costs, which I believe are labor intensive vs. resource intensive.
    Re: Food stuffs – we need labeling that shows the eco – impact of food: energy cost, carbon cost, pesticides, etc. Transport costs are often a huge part of the cost – both carbon and $. We are flying food around the world. It’s HUGELY NOT green. But where can a consumer get the right info?? Come on Terra Pass – lead the way! :-)
    dave

  5. Steve - September 27, 2006

    I don’t really go with the argument that hybrid’s are
    luxury cars and that they cost more. The difference
    in price between the top end Honda Civic and the
    2005 Hybrid Civic was covered by both federal and state
    tax credits ($2000 Federal, $2156 Colorado). And if there is still a small difference in price, it can be made up in gas savings. I get between 52 and 55mpg
    during most of the year, and even when I put 4 studded snow tires on my civic hybrid I average 45mpg. Plus the reduced pollution, and the good karma for driving one. (Oh, and with a $30 Terra Pass, I’m not even polluting)!

  6. David - September 27, 2006

    I am so tired of the “cost efficiency” arguement for hybrid vehicles. Yes, maybe if buying a cheap small diesel vs my Prius I will not recoup my dollar investment, but so what? Some of us are willing to spend more to pollute less and USE less gas (which only helps reduce our energy dependancy). It was a moral choice for me, just like buying CO2 credits for my home, to offset THAT…we all should do what we can to reduce our footprint on the Earth, and if that costs $$, then so be it…at least I sleep better at night.

  7. John - September 27, 2006

    The point about hybrid cars has some merit. I’m not a hybrid car engineer, but I would assume that there are some fairly large quantities of exotic materials in them compared to a conventional car. Increased amounts of circuitry and chips, printed circuit boards, etc. Don’t forget about the batteries, either, which I think in current hybrids are NiMH. For example, as the cost of nickel goes up, so does the cost of the hybrid car. In general, as we mine more metals, we run short on the metals that are easy to get, and start developing processes to get the harder to reach quantities. What’s the mechanism that guarantees these mining processes are environmentally friendly?
    Dave said: “we need labeling that shows the eco – impact of food: energy cost, carbon cost, pesticides, etc. Transport costs are often a huge part of the cost – both carbon and $. We are flying food around the world. It’s HUGELY NOT green.”
    Yes, we fly foods around the world, and this is not “green”. Yes, better lableing is a probably a good idea. But consider shipping food all over the world: what’s the alternative? I live in Michigan…are you suggesting that I can’t have fresh fruit in February because it would mean trucking or flying it in from another state or country? Are you suggesting that people who live in Maine or Alaska or anyplace that has seasons should live on canned/preserved locally grown food 3-6 months out of every year? I’m pretty “green”, support local growers and also support a CSA farm in my area, but I would balk at having to eat canned fruit and vegetables all winter long, proper label or not.

  8. olive - September 27, 2006

    The Forbes article seems to apply a set of rules to green products that it doesn’t apply to other products. Granted it can be better to buy local than to buy organic in some instances this isn’t what the Forbes article argues. Rather it uses some odd logic that $ are like calories and that the production of these $ has a negative impact on the earth so that if we all just spend less by solely not buying green products then the world would be better off.. yet this logic is not applied universally to all other products/services. Seems that really this logic would then indicate it’s best to spend our $ on only green products and eat a smaller bowl of ice cream.

  9. Majic1 - September 27, 2006

    That logic astounds me! I got the same arguments when I purchase an electric car from Canada. Why didn’t I just buy a VW Beetle for the same price? The cost of shipping (I live in Washington State, so around 1,000 miles round-trip delivery on a flatbed truck).
    In the meantime I watch the gas prices skyrocket, go home and plug my car into 110-volt outlet overnight and leave no carbon trail while driving.
    Even when I researched setting up a small solar station to recharge my car I got arguments from the solar panel manufacturers that it wouldn’t be cost-effective for me! That wasn’t my point!
    PS: Our family car is a Jetta using bio diesel and a $30 Terra Pass! I’m okay with being a “Green Snob” for the environment!

  10. evan - September 27, 2006

    I think something that is not directly touched on here until the very end, though, is the environmental impact of shipping “green” or “organic” foods around the world. Think global, eat local.

  11. Flashdaddy - September 27, 2006

    I’ll agree that the article isn’t perfect, and it certainly has it’s own adgenda, but then so does this blog. It doesn’t necessarily invalidate either argument.
    As an engineer by trade, I think that the arguments against hybrids can’t be easily dismissed. A civic with the conventional 4 cyl, gets 38-40 mpg, and the hybrid gets 50. Logically the hybrid creates more exhaust polution at the tail pipe, but the hybrid has the extra batteries, electric motor, etc. all of which are manufactured with a majority of fossil fuel derrived energy. These processes are significantly more efficient than the ICE, but they still use a lot of energy to manufacture. Considering all factors I think at best the hybrid will break even over the life of the car (my opinion here, but based on some first hand understanding of manufacturing).
    My stance is that it is probably greener to buy a used fuel efficient car (civic, carolla, saturn, etc.) that gets 35-40 mpg. These cars can be aquired easily for half the costs of a new ICE or Hybrid car and you can use the $ saved on extra Terrapasses, green certificates, etc. and thus offset much more that they hybrid would save. As hybrids and EVs become more common place, this arguement would change to used hybrids, and EVs. But the focus on always buying used and keeping it in good mechanical shape is greener than having a new car made for you.

  12. kimbol - September 27, 2006

    For what it’s worth, recently Forbes published a similarly hyperbole-filled article with an equally backwards argument supported by equally specious reasoning — all about how men vastly prefer at-home wives to spouses who work for pay. I’m beginning to think I should get my hard news from Cosmopolitan.

  13. steve berg - September 27, 2006

    forbes is your typical fortune 500 fan that refuses to acknowledge the obvious, accept responsibility and adapt to any change whether the environment, planet, or human life as we know it is a stake. it is this type of propaganda that sends an inproper message to those who do not have a grasp on the sreiousness of the matter

  14. Anonymous - September 27, 2006

    Although I disagree with the logic behind the attack on hybrids, I, too am not convinced of their positive impact on the environment. I have three issues with hybrids that pretty much convince me that I would never get one.
    1. Batteries don’t last forever and they are very difficult and dangerous to dispose of. How does that fit into the “greenness” of a hybrid? (This is an honest question, for which I would be happy if anyone knew the answer.)
    2. 45 mpg is good, but many diesels can get that as well. And if you use bio-diesel, then you are not polluting and are completely independent of oil. If you are buying a hybrid to make a statement, then wouldn’t using bio-diesel make more of a statement?
    3. By focusing on hybrids so much, the much better solutions of public transportation, biking, and walking are ignored.

  15. Kif Scheuer - September 27, 2006

    There are people who study these very tradeoffs – it’s called life cycle analysis, and many of the points made by responders are supported by existing research. Forbes should have done some minimal homework before publishing this dreck.
    One point I didn’t see in responses. Eco-goods often are more expensive, because they account for the environmental impacts (either in R&D, or actual production costs). Therefore they are paying their environmental way while the cheaper conventional goods are getting a free ride.
    About cars – In LCA studies I’ve seen by and large the environmental burdens from operations over a lifetime vastly outweigh the production burdens.

  16. Peter - September 27, 2006

    Ben & Jerry’s/Breyers is like Apples/Oranges. Let’s not overlook the obvious. B&J sell their product in pints. Breyers is in larger containers. It’s always more expensive to buy in smaller quantities. I do fault B&J on this one. Presumably, they want their product to be consumed without having been exposed to too much air while in the freezer between uses. I think there are very few of us who could tell the difference over a week or two’s life of a 1/2 gallon of ice cream in the freezer. B&J should let the consumer decide whether he/she wants to buy in small or large containers, perhaps with a note about this on the containers. Larger containers would be more Earth friendly. C’mon B&J, you could be more eco-minded here.

    Secondly, ice cream is a common food in the modern world, but it is a luxury food. If you really want to be earth-friendly, don’t buy it at all (or only for special occasions). The production, transportation & refrigeration involved is an unnecessary use of energy; therefore unnecessarily contributing to GW.

    One more point…The raw amount of green products necessary to supply all of us would indeed be too much to ask of the Earth. There are simply too many of us. We’ve exploded in numbers over recent history. We need to reduce our numbers while reducing our individual impact as well. If we don’t, Earth will do it for us & we won’t like the way in which it happens at all!

  17. Mia - September 27, 2006

    “Don’t like the taste of tap? Get yourself a Brita filter and a Nalgene. And remember to send that check to Care.”

    While I am in agreement with Adam’s response to the poorly researched and sloppily argued Forbes article, I can’t help but comment on this last piece of advice. It is true that bottled water is not the way to go- most bottled water is owned by companies with reprehensible track records regarding local environments and community, and most the packaging and shipping of bottled water uses a tremendous amount of resources. However, the most ethical and healthy way to hydrate oneself is NOT with a Nalgene bottle. Not a polycarbonate one, anyway.

    Polycarbonate Nalgene bottles (the most popular kind) are made with bisphenol A, a known endocrine disruptor. Approximately 200 published studies indicate that bisphenol A can cause serious reproductive defects, miscarriage, obesity and even prostate and breast cancer. Nalgene dismisses this independent science, and points its website visitors to industry supported websites.

    Next week Ecopledge’s new Detox Nalgene campaign will go live. Please visit our site http://www.detoxnalgene.org (next week) for more information on bisphenol A and our tactics for pressuring the company to discontinue the use of bisphenol A and switch to a safer alternative. For now, information can be found at http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/environmental-health/stop-toxic-toys/bisphenol-a-overview/overview , and http://www.ourstolenfuture.org. The Detox Nalgene campaign recommends stainless steel water bottles for travel and glass at home. Polyethylene water bottles (the more opaque plastic) made by Nalgene and other companies are also safer alternatives to polycarbonate. Check out my blog at http://www.DriveNeutral.org.

    Mia Davis
    Campaign Coordinator
    Ecopledge and Detox Nalgene

  18. Laurel - September 27, 2006

    Adam/Anyone- Can you send me the link to this Forbes article? I have searched Forbes.com and can’t find the article. Thanks, laurel77@comcast.net

  19. Urs - September 27, 2006

    Forbes is right. The price of a good reflects how many resources are used to manufacture it (plus some profit).
    BUT: In todays world the price of a ressource does not include it’s full environmental impact…
    Simple solution -> price the resources right and kill all subsidies to “green” technology, too. Then tell the consumers to buy the cheapest stuff (which then will also be the “greenest”).
    *This* is why we all love carbon emission trading… It is a step in the right direction and may one day make hybids less expensive than regular cars (but only if they really *are* superior…)

  20. David - September 27, 2006

    I wonder what the differential mass of “exotic metals” in a hybrid vehicle vs a conventional is? While the hybrid car uses NiMH batteries, one should note that tonnes nickel are used for money and stainless steel. Is the hybrid car “exotic” metal requirement a drop in the bucket? The next question is how this compares to common household electronics (computers, TV’s, stereos, motorized items etc.). Depending on this comparision, does the article imply that consumer electronics are also something to avoid, especially the High Priced ones?
    The energy consumption of a vehicle throughout its lifetime (ie. metal out of the ground (production) to the vehicle’s termination – include recycle potential) is one of the more relevant numbers in assessing impact.

  21. Heather - September 27, 2006

    Curiosity…I recently read an article by Betsy Hart about the “non-earth-friendliness” of hybrid vehicles, and was wondering if anyone has credible, “official” information they can point me to, regarding the overall footprint of a hybrid vs. conventional automobile…vs. biodiesel ~ This is the article:

    http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=HART-07-27-06

  22. Wahhab - September 27, 2006

    As the Forbes article is described, they have it exactly backwards. Our economic system acts as if natural resources were free, and only labor has value. The price of something reflects the sum of all labor inputs to produce it. Labor inputs are not per se ecologically damaging(assuming we don’t breed people to do work). Developing an economics that took resource use into account as a cost would balance the system. Not too likely, but Europe is far ahead of us on this by (for example) including disposal costs as part of pricing (like charging deposits on soda cans).

  23. Monty - September 27, 2006

    Responding to Anonymous asking about the batteries in the hybrid vehicles:
    Hybrid’s have been around long enough now to have accurate conclusions about the longevity of the batteries. Toyota and Honda have both concluded that the batteries should average the life of the vehicle (average is 14 years).
    Much is made of the environmental impact of those batteries, however, to date, it is a non-issue. The batteries used in these vehicles can be recycled, and the companies recycling them are currently paying for these batteries. That is more than we can say about the other components of modern day vehicles.
    I certainly would not say that hybrid vehicles are the environmental answer. They are not, and I agree with others here that claim it is likely better for the environment to purchase a used highly efficient vehicle (90’s Civic, for example) instead. However, do keep in mind that ~10% of vehicle lifetime energy use is in the manufacturing of the vehicle. Hybrids tend to get ~15% better gas mileage than standard combustion engines. So, it clearly is an improvement – albeit, only a ~5% one.

  24. JMG - September 27, 2006

    The brilliant eco-cities designer Richard Register notes that, in America, hybrids are a loser because they simply allow people to live further from work and feel virtuous while doing so.
    The problem is that Jevon’s paradox holds true everywhere (efficiency gains are consumed by increased overall consumption rather than producing net savings).
    I went to the 3d Annual Peak Oil conference in Yellow Springs OH this year; the theme was “Beyond Alternatives” and the theme of most of the presentations was about fighting the urge to develop substitutions that allow you to keep making the problem worse overall, even if you get to say that your part is reduced. That’s what people need to be thinking about.

  25. Anonymous - September 27, 2006

    No vulgarity, but are you *$#%@&$* kidding me?

  26. Carol - September 27, 2006

    Forbes advice, not eating green, not driving hybrids, etc. is what we’ve been doing up until now. No revelations here.

    With a 10-year window (tick, tick, tick) to irreversible global warming, perhaps there is nothing else to do but get fat on ice cream and write magazine columns….

  27. WhiteRabbit - September 27, 2006

    I think Forbes is a bit off base. I’m a hybrid owner, and my only environmental concerns were about the battery pack, but they have since been allayed. Not only are they lasting 200,000 miles or more, the current NiMH technology is fully recyclable and is indeed being recycled. No toxic landfill here.

    I also don’t fully understand the anonymous poster earlier who said that a hybrid is only 15% more fuel-efficient than a traditional car. That may be true of highway mileage, but the gains overall are a lot closer to 100%. I personally replaced an old 4-cylinder Honda Accord with a Prius, and have improved my average overall mileage almost 100% (from 25 to 49 mpg). I also got more room and slightly more power, but I digress. I drive a mix of city and highway, like, I assume(?) most folks.

    Emission-wise, the EPA had to make a new, lower-emission category for them when they came out: PZEV, Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle. It’s very clean in particulates, smog, VOC’s, and all those other tailpipe things. As for CO2, I’ve cut my emissions down and balanced the rest (like all you good people!)

    Yes, we ABSOLUTELY(!) have to drive less and revamp our cities, but in the meantime, hybrids (and the coming plug-ins) have a role to fill. And as for the paradox, for what it’s worth, I don’t think I drive my Prius more than my old Honda.

  28. John Hildebrand - September 28, 2006

    Well done in picking up on this article as it does point to an important question. How good are carbon credits? Ideally none of us would drive, but once we decide to buy a car should we buy a more efficient vehicle or a cheaper one offset with more carbon credits? From an environmental perspective, would I cause more carbon emissions if I drove a Toyota Prius 40,000 miles or a Hummer with $400 of Terra Pass credits, which your calculator suggests is close to being carbon neutral? Why haven’t all the carbon neutral Hummer drivers responded to this article? After all if I had a Hummer i would want to drive it all over this land.

  29. Adam Stein - September 28, 2006

    Wow, great thread. Couple of comments:

    Daveg — We’re as intrigued as you are by the idea of providing consumers with better info about the impact of their purchases. We’ve got our hands pretty full right now, but this is an idea we think about a lot.

    John — I’m sympathetic to what you’re saying, but it does feel like you’re attacking a strawman. No one is suggesting that people in northern latitudes should eat boiled root vegetables all winter long. But it’s hard to argue that giving more info to consumers is a bad thing. Maybe then those February mangoes would start to seem a little less appealing.

    Flashdaddy — you make good points about the merits of buying a used conventional car. Unfortunately, I have to cry foul on your bogus evenhandedness. To suggest that both the Forbes article and this blog have their own agendas and are therefore somehow equally suspect or equally worthy of consideration is just silliness. The Forbes article fails basic tests of logic and evidentiary reasoning. It’s a hack job. The authors of this blog do have a point of view, but we’re also guided by the truth.

    Laurel — the article is linked at the top of the post: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2006/1002/014.html

    Urs — No, Forbes isn’t right. Pricing may reflect resource use + profit, but only if industry structure favors such a pricing scheme. The web browser I’m using right now is free. The operating system is not. These prices have nothing to do with resource use. But I agree with everything you have to say about carbon emissions trading :)

    David — I agree that the article’s glib reference to scary-sounding exotic metals needs a lot more unpacking before it can be critically evaluated. I personally don’t have any expertise here, and the author of article certainly isn’t trustworthy. Other commenters seem to credibly suggest, however, that the battery issue is overblown. I suspect that a lot of these materials can be reclaimed at the end of the hybrid’s life.

    JMG — good point, although perhaps a bit too pessimistic. Demand for driving has been surprisingly inelastic in the face of fuel price fluctuations. That cuts both ways — it’s not clear to me that hybrid drivers will drive farther because they’re burning less gas. Is there any data to back up this assertion?

    John Hildebrand — This is an interesting question, but it seems to be mostly an academic one. In practice, people who buy carbon credits are usually intensely interested in conservation. Which is a good thing. Reduce your use, and offset what you can’t eliminate.

  30. Anonymous - September 28, 2006

    One complaint I always find funny is that the extra cost of a hybrid doesn’t pay for itself or will take a very long time to offset the up front cost. This is of course is debatable and will depend on the cost of fuel in the future. For some reason though you never hear people complain about the extra cost of say a V6 versus a V4 engine (or V8 versus V6). The main differnece besides energy efficiency is that usually the car can go from 0 to 60 in about a second faster – is that worth $3000 to $4000 more? apparently to some people. Maybe there should be a little bit more focus in this area since the HP and torque of the average US vehicle is up probably 50% in the past ten years at the expense of fuel efficiency.
    Another point I think many people forget is that technology is evolving. The hybrid of three to five years from now will most likely offer plug in features that allow the car to run significant distances on a home charge that is much more environmentally friendly than todays hybrid cars, but to get there you need to take the incremental steps that are occurring. Ten years from now I beleive many people will be able to run their cars almost solely off the solar power they generate at home, now that would be environmentally friendly.

  31. Lance - September 28, 2006

    Re: Ice Cream

    Forbs doesn’t seem to be taking into account the regular Ice Cream production processes anyway. Ice Cream is sold by Volume and not by weight.

    All of the “premium” Ice Creams are MUCH denser than their “regular” ice cream cousins, and it’s not really the same product (All sold in the small containers, I believe the idea is that you won’t eat as much volume of the premium ice creams, as you would the regular ones.)
    The “regular” ice creams are all fluffed up with air to increase volume, and create a smoother texture. A simple Calorie/Fat comparrison (or serving size) will tell you there’s not nearly as much diference in the actual ammount of product/resources used as you would guess from the volume, B&J’s is much more dense (and richer).

  32. Gary - September 29, 2006

    Don’t buy green??? Dick Cheney, is that you?

  33. Anonymous - September 29, 2006

    Specifically on hybrid vehicles, if Forbes were serious, their conclusion should have called for massive investment in high-quality, attractive, really rapid rapid transit. Sure, my Prius isn’t the best solution–but it’s a relatively “green” way to get around in those cases (all to often) when Seattle’s public transportation choices don’t work, and our supposedly-green mayor trumpets his support for the Kyoto protocol, but his big project is a couple of dinky little streetcar lines downtown… We were going to have a monorail, but no….

  34. David - September 30, 2006

    Re. Hybrid Advantage.
    Monty (Sept. 27 1pm). I think there is a mistake in your conclusion. Using the example: 100 energy units (EU) vs 85EU with the hybrid getting 15% better mileage. 10%=10&8.5EU. Each vehicle uses 90EU and 76.5EU, after manufacturing is taken into the consideration, for transportation (assuming 10% manufacturing energy use for both is correct). The advantage is therefore 1-76.5/90=15%
    Note that Toyota’s 2007 Camry gets 40% (!!!)better milleage than the 4 cyl conventional version. The difference is even greater with the 6 cyl.

  35. John - October 4, 2006

    Adam – I’m not attacking a strawman at all. I believe more info is a good thing.

    My point was simple: people tend to over-simplify problems, especially when they’re emotionally invested in one side or the other. When someone starts claiming that transporting food great distances is bad for the environment, I have to wonder if they’ve thought it through. My example was legit…all of the fresh fruit and vegetables I eat in the winter months are transported to me using “unfriendly” processes. Big trucks, airplanes, etc. If someone points out that transporting fresh produce long distances is bad, then I ask: what is the alternative?

    For people in northern climates, I can only see one, pending the invention of some sort of organic, environmentally friendly wonder process that keeps a harvest fresh for 6 months or more: don’t consume fresh food, or if you do, prepare to be chastised by those green folk who don’t live someplace with seasons. Right? Where’s the strawman there?

    Monty – auto salvage is a significant industry in America and elsewhere. Suggesting that hybrids are “better” because they get recycled and that conventional, non-hybrid cars and trucks are not recycled is false. Non-hybrid vehicles are recycled, and recyclers pay for vehicles…there are numerous resources available for more info that you can google if you’re interested. After all, its not like the millions of non-hybrid vehicles produced in America go to landfills.

  36. Russ - October 8, 2006

    One does not buy a hybrid to ‘save money’ one buys a hybrid to make a statement. That said, what happens when all of these hybrid car batteries need to be disposed of an/or recycled? What is the cost of disposal and/or recycling? I hope whatever the answer, it doesn’t defeat the original purpose, with hybrid car batteries rotting in the land fill…..

  37. Michael - March 4, 2008

    We’re missing one point, (at least in the top dozen posts)that buying green’s primary benefit is that you get to feel good about yourself. Some nitch products amounting to less than 1% of the market is not going to make a global difference. Sure, it’s good to do, better than being a bigger part of the problem, but it’s just not going to make much dif. Take a Prius for example. So it uses 25-50% less gas than another car. It still uses a lot of gas, and used a ton of energy to produce. It’s not as bad as other cars, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.
    We don’t need to all drive Priuses, we need to all stop driving cars. To do that, we need to restructure our society so that we don’t need them, and that’s going to be a hard thing to do.

  38. Michael - March 4, 2008

    continuation of previous:
    Despite the huge popularity of Priuses (probably has the biggest market share of green products), gasoline consumption is still going up.

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