Posts Tagged 'gas prices'

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.

The Real Cost Of Gas: $15/gallon

Last night my friend Jean gave me the first chapter of Lester Brown’s book Plan B to read. Whoa.

I learned that when the International Center For Technology Assessment studied the entire cost of the gas in our cars, including the military costs of protecting access to Mideast oil and the health care costs of treating illnesses created by air pollution, what our country is really paying for gas is not $3/gallon. It is $15/gallon.

Lester Brown is highly readable because he’s so succinct. “In order for markets to work . . . they must give us good information. But the market is giving us bad information, and as a result we are making bad decisions — so bad that they are threatening civilization”.

My takeaway here is that if we were paying even close to the real cost of gas, we wouldn’t just drive less and carpool and walk more. We would make sure we were living and working in places within reasonable distance of each other. Instead, in the past four decades our citizenry has steadily increased our commuting distances and also the sheer number of cars we own. We can be choosing differently.

As for dealing with sticker-shock around raising the price of gas to depict reality, think of the shock it was when we all left our parents’ homes where we paid no rent and got into our first apartment, complete with utility bills and groceries that actually cost us money out of our pockets. It wasn’t easy to start paying all those costs of living, but they were reality. And we all rose to the occasion and started living in reality, even though we had to live somewhat differently than we had before we moved out on our own.

Similarly, it won’t be easy to eventually start paying the real cost of gas instead of letting it be subsidized for us. But we’re adults and we’re strong enough to deal with reality.