The Toyota Prius has become the darling of the environmentally conscious because of its hybrid technology. It has two engines instead of one. It overcomes the limitations of electric vehicles by having a gasoline engine as well. The gasoline engine powers the vehicle up to 30 mph and when additional thrust is needed at higher speeds. The electric engine powers the car at cruising speeds above 30 mph. The battery is recharged when the brakes are applied and when the gas engine in operating above 30 mph.
Because of the dual technology, the Prius got an astonishing EPA estimate of 60 miles per gallon in city driving, 51 on the highway, and drew praise from environmentalists. But according to Edmunds.com, the auto shopping site, the Prius costs $9,500 more than a comparable conventional vehicle. So the “green” benefit was always very expensive. Now it has turned out to be even more so, and the argument for its energy conservation has evaporated. EPA mileage estimates have long been criticized as inaccurate because, for example, they limited highway speed mileage to 55 mph and acceleration to only 3.3mph per second. Even EPA admitted this was unrealistic and has now provided more accurate mileage estimations. The new Prius overall estimate is down 25 percent--close to the mileage for conventional cars costing less than half as much.
That's just the beginning, according to Chris Demorro writing in The Recorder. The Prius causes far more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road three times longer. All the nickel in Prius batteries—1,000 tons annually—is purchased from a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. The plant has caused such environmental damage from sulfur dioxide emissions that the surrounding area is devoid of life for miles and was used by NASA to test moon rovers.
The nickel mined is shipped to Europe for refining, then to China for further processing, then to Japan, where the batteries are fabricated. The batteries are then shipped to the United States. Thus lots of energy is expended in transportation to produce something that is supposed to conserve transportation energy for the consumer.
A study by CNW Marketing calculated the combined energy costs from electrical, fuel, material (metal, plastic, etc.) and other factors over the expected life of the Prius, which is 100,000 miles. The Prius averaged $3.25 per mile. Meanwhile, the Hummer, which is excoriated as a Goliath of wasteful extravagance, costs only $1.95 per mile over a lifetime of 300,000 miles. It last 3 times longer than the Prius and conserves energy.
Here is just one more example of politicians believing they can direct the economic actions of society better than the marketplace—and producing results opposite to those intended. Government passed CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) laws requiring increased mileage in the belief that the result would be more economical and efficient cars that would conserve energy. So resources, both financial and labor, were diverted from more useful enterprises to creating cars with better mileage ratings. This was not merely to meet current CAFE standards but to offer a way to meet the threats of future increases in the standards, which politicians and environmental groups regularly demand.
The full cost of this government-promoted economic waste will never be known, because we will never see the more useful things that would have been created had the resources not been diverted. Resources are never unlimited; the free market channels resources to enterprises most useful to society, as determined by the economic choices of the people. The choices of the politicians necessarily displace the economic choices of the people, leaving society poorer than it otherwise would be. That's why freer economies are always more prosperous and the people healthier and better off than in societies with less free economies.
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