Much of this debate falls back on a study from CNW Marketing Research that states hybrids use more energy in their lifetime than a large SUV. This dust-to-dust analysis has been blasted by an official at the Union of Concerned Scientists, saying the study was contradicted by MIT and other scientific communities. Toyota has also rejected the study, saying it doesn't reflect the data the automaker has compiled in its lifecycle analysis.
I won't go into all the points raised in Halvorson's lengthy story, which offers the argument that environmental damage and energy are not synonymous. But the biggest problem with engaging in a serious debate is that CNWMR won't release its data or methodology from its report for critical peer review. Meanwhile, the report's conclusions are often stated as fact throughout conservative and anti-environmental commentary.