Sunday, June 15, 2008

Climate change and Hummer vs Prius

I find myself in conversations about climate change rather often, though maybe surprising to you I don't start many of them. People think that since my company is an environmental steward and preaching sustainability that I'm a good sounding board for whatever news or rumor they've heard recently. I welcome the conversation, but I find myself having to do much of my research just so I can make sure people don't tell a whole group a half-truth and because I'm there and I don't object that must mean it's right. when really I just don't know enough about the subject to venture an opinion.

So, I have to look into these claims and try to become an expert because I'm expected to be an expert. I wonder how many actual accidental experts there are....I say actual because I'm still not an expert on much of anything except my own opinion. but here are a couple of counter-points you and me can make to people who love to grab onto sensationalism:

Ok, so it's been debated for a long time and everyone has an opinion. But as of July 2007 you can confidently say there is NOT ONE SINGLE NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC BODY THAT DISPUTES MAN'S CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE. Not just that the climate is changing. Many people will admit this and still deny humans have anything to do with it. But no credible scientists will deny it. Humans are causing the earth to heat up. Hands down. Cite Wikipedia to fully arm yourself for this statement:
And the best one:
Direct quote if you're too busy to go find it:
With the July 2007 release of the revised statement by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, no remaining scientific body of national or international standing is known to reject the basic findings of human influence on recent climate.[47]

Ok, now on to some junk science. Is the Hummer better for the environment from cradle to cradle than the Prius? While this one is harder to definitively debunk because the original science behind it is kept partially secret, there are fatal flaws in even the publicly conceded methodology. I like this article's stance for it's honest look at the issue, but the answer is no, it's not:>

One huge problem with the original claim, that you can cite, is that they say it's based on the total lifetime of the vehicle and they make assumptions about what that lifetime is. Instead of comparing them with similar lifetimes, they claim that a prius will only drive 109,000 miles in its lifetime compared to 200,000 for a normal car and amazingly almost 400,000 miles for a Hummer. Why they assume a hummer will be driven twice as far as a normal car is beyond me. In fact, it's totally ridiculous and their explanation for their claim is that the current hybrid models will soon be "obsolete" because of better models and that means current hybrids will not be driven for as long. using a comparable lifetime mileage, the cradle to cradle cost of the hybrid comes in far, far below SUVs and Hummers. It also looks like they make an assumption on gas prices and since the study looks like it was done in 2006...well, you can figure that one out.

So, if you get dragged into this argument, ask about the assumed lifetimes of the vehicles? The person will have no idea what you're talking about and you can kindly inform them that the study is flawed and point them to this blog or the study above.

Other flaws:
People will for some reason claim the batteries are toxic and not recyclable. Here's word from Green Car Journal and Toyota:
Battery toxicity is a concern, although today's hybrids use NiMH batteries, not the environmentally problematic rechargeable nickel cadmium. "Nickel metal hydride batteries are benign. They can be fully recycled," says Ron Cogan, editor of the Green Car Journal. Toyota and Honda say that they will recycle dead batteries and that disposal will pose no toxic hazards. Toyota puts a phone number on each battery, and they pay a $200 "bounty" for each battery to help ensure that it will be properly recycled.

There's no definitive word on replacement costs because they are almost never replaced. According to Toyota, since the Prius first went on sale in 2000, they have not replaced a single battery for wear and tear.
Another supporting article, slightly more biased:
You can google 'hummer better for the environment than prius' to find more.

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