Why a Hummer is Better for the Environment Than a Toyota Prius

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Recently, we met friends for lunch along the Thames. The luncheon discussion was gay and carefree…but thoughtful too. One of our friends ran a commodity brokerage company in Geneva. Now, he has become an activist…a provocateur…for the free market.

“You know,” he said, “so much of this discussion of global climate change is completely irrational. It is more like a religious discussion than a scientific one. People – especially young people – think that some things are right and some things are wrong. There are a lot of people who think it is morally wrong to drive a Hummer, for example. It is not a question of cost/benefit ratios…or of trying to figure out whether it really makes sense. It is simply wrong.

“But I read recently an interesting study. The author tried to figure out how much environmental damage is done by Hummers…compared to socially-responsible cars, like that hybrid, the Prius.

“What he found was that it was not nearly as simple as you think. The Hummer is made of old technology – heavy steel. It is fairly easy to make…with existing plant and equipment…and the manufacturing process does fairly little environmental damage. And then, when it is worn out, it is easy to recycle; it is just a big lump of metal, after all.

“The Prius relies on newer technology. It’s made of a lot of composite materials, which apparently are very hard to deal with environmentally…and almost impossible to recycle. Plus, the process of building these things takes a lot of capital…and a lot of resources…all of which have environmental effects.

“The advantage of the Prius is that it takes less fuel to run per mile. Over time, the Prius is more environmentally friendly. But, at least according to this study, you have to run the Prius for 10 years before you are even. That is, it takes 10 years before the amount of environmental damage caused by the gas-guzzling Hummer catches up with the damage done by the Prius.”

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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16 Comments on "Why a Hummer is Better for the Environment Than a Toyota Prius"

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Patrick Pong
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The other is issue is the battery from the hybrid is more complex and is much larger. They suppose to only last about 10 years after which you have to replace them. So you have a large numbers of these batteries needing to be disposed. What are do these batteries with the chemicals in them do to the environment. Could someone tell me if I am right? I rather spend money on solar panels.

Greg Gupton
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The CNW Marketing Research that your posting refers to was “news” last Spring and has since been widely and thoroughly discredited. See–{http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/case_studies/hummer_vs_prius.pdf}. It is poor journalism and rather irresponsible to run an article like this. You’re just trying to cause controversy where none exists.

Steve
Guest

Bill, your friend is guilty of the same thing as many global warming advocates are. He believed a bad source and he didn’t bother to look into it. I agree with him that many people who are vocal about global climate change know nothing of the science behind the changes that are coming. The hummer vs prius study your friend refers to was torn apart by neutral sources as a completely worthless study. It was not submitted for peer review, and it was written by a PR firm!

Steve
Guest
As for believing that global warming is a hoax, I used to agree. Then I saw the hard-and-fast data. The globe is warming, and humans are causing most of it. That debate is over, because no one has offered any scientific evidence to the contrary. I had a hard time reconciling that with my libertarian views, but in the end it comes down to something very simple. Clean air is a finite resource, and it must be managed somehow. I don’t think the government should have to be involved, but let’s be honest here. We don’t live in a perfect… Read more »
Allan deLaubenfels
Guest

I own a Prius

I have never seen ANY composite material in it.
It is constructed very conventionally.

The traction battery is FULLY recycleable as is the rest of the car.

If its construction is so damaging to the evironment, why is the factory so clean to see?

To say that it is anything like as damaging to the environment as a Hummer is hogwash.

geoff
Guest

thats funny – i thought dirty air caused climate cooling – how do you explain similar rates of climate change on other planets – come on steve look beyond the madness of crowds and political agendas

Bob
Guest

yes geoff thats right
keep driving that HUMMER of yours – on any or all of those other planets, they are warming up anyway.
BUT here in this world that MY children inherit – HUMMER is obese, obscene, ugly, pompous, disgusting…
Should I continue ?
Or should I not bother ?

The man-made climate change discussion is IRRELEVANT to gluttony and waste as represented by HUMMER.
Warming or not the world is finite and wasting precious little of clean air left on these discussions or hummers is shameful.

Jono
Guest
That CNW study was not discredited. It was attacked by every environmental group on the earth, but the general facts remain solid. The Prius has a very damaging battery. It uses nickel which is mined in Sudsbury, Ontario at one of the largest nickel plants in the world, the superstack. The area around the plant resembles a desert, after years of acid rain has killed off any vegetation. Hybrid parts are expensive and unique and require their own production lines. The amount of software and technology development for the battery and engine control system that goes into a Prius requires… Read more »
Jeff
Guest

This article is incorrect. You have to drive the prius for 12,000 miles before you are even environmentally.

NOT 10 years (unless you drive 1,200 mi/year)

Coffee Addict
Guest
It should be possible to double, triple or quadrupple the design life of hybrids without much difficulty. Aircraft made of with composites or metal can, by comparison easily last 30 years or more. The problem is that such a design strategy would lead to less cars being produced. This area of market failure can only be redressed by Government policies which make holding on to a fuel efficient (though older) car, bus or truck more attacive. The nickel batteries have an expected life of only 6 years and will require a complex recycling process (a clear area for investment growth).… Read more »
Allan deLaubenfels
Guest

Jono, where is your evidence that the life of the Prius is low compared to othe cars? They have been made for ten years and few have been retired because they have worn out yet!

The Prius consumes a very small percent of the nickel from the factory which you describe which had been in production for decades before the Prius was invented. Anything with stainless steel and a host of other products contains nickel.

geoff
Guest

cant argue with that bob – but please note i drive a solar electric three wheeler with retractable verticle axis wind turbine – probably the only motorised vehicle on new-zealand roads with virtualy nil environmental consequeces – commercialy available next year if you want one.

pianoguy
Guest
The entire goal of the Prius project when it began in 1995 was to build a car that would have minimum environmental impact over its entire life-cycle. The hybrid drive was not part of the original design mandate – it only evolved as a way of cutting energy consumption. (To get the full story, read “The Prius that Shook the World.” It’s available in pdf format from several websites.) As Jeff correctly notes, Toyota estimates that it takes 12,000 miles to amortize the additional energy required to create and dispose of the Prius – and that’s relative to a conventional… Read more »
Martin
Guest
Boy Bill, you hit a raw nerve there. My two cents, for what its worth…. I recently watched a DVD about the GM EV1 electric car with the title “Who killed the electric car.” I, and I suspect many others, had or still have, the misconception that the Prius was the first practical car to use electric power. It is well worth a look, if you can’t get the DVD try this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ev1 Imagine recharging your electric car partly from your home solar panels! Regarding Nickel, Stainless steel contains somewhere between 5-10% Nickel, not to mention a fair whack of… Read more »
Jon
Guest
Martin, Thank you for pointing out the facts about nickel. You’re clearly intelligent, so I have to throw this out to you after reading the rest of your post. Does science exist? Or is it, like art, a matter of opinion? If it exists, is it valuable? Does anyone want to argue that science is not valuable? If science exists, and it is valuable, what determines what “true” science is? Is it what most scientists most knowledgeable about a particular topic agree to? Or does the opinion of one scientist, or two, or three, override the hundreds of other scientists… Read more »
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