Posts Tagged 'embodied energy'

The Case For Hybrids and Sex

On March 2 I wrote about my household’s deliberations over which hybrid should be the replacement for our single car, a battered 15 year old Nissan. People have been asking me, “So what have you decided?” It’s almost like they’re wondering if a new baby will be a boy or a girl.

The answer: we don’t want this new baby (new car) until late summer. At the earliest, if then. I can name three reasons (and maybe you’d like to add some more).

1.) I don’t want to fertilize the market with a car purchase. Our nation already has way too many cars of any ilk (250 million, and that’s just the registered ones). Most of these run just fine and don’t need replacement. It takes 20 barrels of oil just to make a car, I’ve read. So, we’d have to drive a hybrid 20,000 miles to save that much oil if it got double the average car’s mileage. And why would I want a motivation to drive 20,000 miles?

2.) Babies (new cars) are very needy and therefore disruptive to sexiness. Thor is already trying to set rules about no eating or drinking in our hypothetical new car. I am already outraged: “Who’s driving things here, us or the car?” (You can tell I currently drink coffee every morning in our ratty Nissan with impunity.) This marital disagreement has not yet hampered our sex life, but you never know when a playful power struggle might escalate.

3.) Cars are not sexy, anyway. It was only when we were semi-homeless teenagers that there was a legitimate association between cars and sex. Has your sex life not improved since you were 18, moved out and got a better place to neck than a car? I rest my case.

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Our Next Car: Prius Or Honda Hybrid?

With my new, longer commute we’re going to finally replace our single car, a 1993 Nissan Sentra, with a newer car. The question is: what car makes the most sense, given both that we’re thrifty and that carbon emissions are prime drivers of global warming (no pun intended)?

We sized it up last night, now that we’ve finished doing our taxes (we’re early this year). The Prius can get 50ish miles per gallon, while a Honda Civic hybrid yields 38ish, but then the Prius costs about $4,000 more. And we’re convinced gas will be at least $4/gallon for most of the car’s lifespan.

Even so, the Prius would only save us about $300/year on gas. However, it would mean we were producing 25% less carbon emissions.

Because we’re financially solid with two good salaries, we care a lot more about our carbon footprint than saving $300. But if we saved $4,000 on the purchase price, what good things could we accomplish with that money? The jury is still out, and I’m wide open to input. What do you think is the best decision?

Finally, the elephant in the room I never see anyone addressing is: what is the carbon footprint of manufacturing all these ding-dang cars in the first place? That is to say, what is their embodied energy? My hunch is that it is enormous, and dwarfs the emissions we create by driving. Please give me a link to this information.

Possibly in the global picture, the best course is to buy no new cars at all until our current ones are literally repaired to death. I realize that course would shake up the economy — but a market transformation is what it will take, regardless, to deal effectively with global warming.