Sustainability = frugality over the long term

here is the big secret:

Actual sustainability = frugality over the long term.

If it costs more over its lifetime, it is NOT sustainable. So, when gas is at $2.50 a gallon, the Prius is NOT always sustainable.

Proof: The cost of any item, in the end, is the energy required to make it. All the metal, plastic, glass, etc.. needed to make a Prius is just setting in the ground, free for the taking. The real cost of making it into a Prius is the cost of the energy required to dig it up, ship it to the foundry, refine it, ship it to the parts factory, form it, ship it to the car factory, assemble it, ship it to the lot, and sell it to you. All of the equipment and people involved in those processes are, again, the cost of the energy required to make and operate.

Just about ALL of that energy is fossil fuels. So how does it make sense to spend $22,000 (http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/trims-prices.html) worth of fossil fuel to get 51/45mpg, when you could spend $12,000 (http://www.toyota.com/yaris/trims-prices.html) worth of fossil fuel to get 29/35mpg? You are saving about 20mpg, or 12.5 cents per mile, for an expenditure of $10,000. You would have to drive 80,000 miles to make that worth doing. Given a 5 year average vehicle life, you would have to drive 16,000 miles per year or an average of 45 miles per day. So if your commute is less than ½ hour each way, a Prius actually HURTs our Mother more than it helps.

Of course, the numbers REALLY make a jump when you consider a USED car vs a NEW Prius. A 25mpg 2001 Camry for $10,000 with an average useful life of 20 years turns out to be a much more sustainable choice than a new Prius for that same 30 min commute.

The REAL green people drive old cars and support their local mechanic until the repair bill exceeds the savings.

1 comment:

Big Al said...

Yes. The concept that you are talking about is what the eco-economist refer to as embodied energy.


Embodied energy analysis is still rather new and being refined, but yes, the cost of a product is a very good indicator of the embodied energy. There is some raging debate over the true disposal cost of some products and/or waste products of services. Here's food for thought: is it more eco-friendly to buy a product manufactured in the US or from an a foreign country? In many cases, buying a product from another country, when the price is cheaper, is better for the environment. Why? Say you buy a Japanese car that is cheaper than a comparable American car. Yes, shipping takes more energy, but it was manufactured by someone in a country that uses about 1/2 the energy per capita.


The transportation costs are offset by labor that has lower embodied energy.

Until we learn how to consume less energy, it is more eco-friendly to buy labor intensive products from foreign sources.

Get your used car fixed by a guy that rides a bike to work. :)