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The debate over which iconic vehicle - the Hummer or the Prius - uses less energy over the course of the vehicle's lifetime comes up again and again. See the example posts, in chronological order, here and here and here and here and here. (Alternately, there's also the little issue of women's assumptions about these two cars). It's the story that won't die.
Joseph Romm, writing at grist yesterday, tries to put the argument to rest - finally, hopefully - with his post "Prius easily beats Hummer in lifecycle energy use; 'Dust to Dust' report has no basis in fact."

Romm specifically says he's tackling the story because the original study, by CNW Marketing Research, that claims a Hummer is better for the environment than a Prius keeps echoing around the Internet while "a couple of good debunking studies -- by the Pacific Institute (PDF) and by Rocky Mountain Institute (PDF) -- haven't gotten much attention, according to Technorati."

Romm's done a lot of work in his post, and I want to give him credit by sending readers his way. The important thing to takeaway from the post, though, is this:

I am mocking this [CNW's] report because it is the most contrived and mistake-filled study I have ever seen -- by far (and that's saying a lot, since I worked for the federal government for five years). I am not certain there is an accurate calculation in the entire report. I say this without fear of contradiction, because this is also the most opaque study I have ever seen -- by far. I defy anyone to figure out their methodology.


All in all, Romm debunks like the best of 'em. Whenever the Prius v. Hummer debate comes up again in the future, we'll just point people to his post. You wouldn't think it'd be so hard to convince people that a car that gets 45+mpg is better for the environment than a vehicle that gets ~17, but with marketing firms like CNW mucking the waters, common sense sometimes has a hard time finding the light.

[Source: grist, h/t to Dan K.]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 5 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      I do not argue with the irresponsibility of blindly reporting on this questionable study (maybe too kind) by the media, however, please let's not fall into the trap that anyone who refutes something that you also believe is false, somehow has presented all the facts openly and accurately. Everyone should try to put some effort into verifying the information provided by people who agree with your ideas, as well as those that disagree. (This is where I'm supposed to put in the requisite Wiki link. In this, case the example of the Iraq War or WOMD would suffice.)

      I'm not really sure it is accurate to portray the author has having "done a lot of work in his post". As we've seen on the AutoGreen blog, some folks can really go off about a spelling error or grammatical error and potentially miss the point or not make one of their own. This seems to be an potential path that the author is planning to take us on when one reads the line "I am mocking this report because it is the most contrived and mistake-filled study I have ever seen -- by far", and then points out all the spelling errors.

      I was hoping to see some substantiatable (sp?) facts to the contrary to validate his counter points.

      It really seems to me (it may not to you) that he has taken individual items out of the report, made somewhat generalized contradictory comments in an "out-of-context" setting, and applied "logic" that may not be considered anymore substantial that the "logic" (or lack thereof) in said "report". Complaining that the raw data is not available, but also stating a new "rule of thumb" for calculating the energy usage of a product really looks to be using the same flawed methodology. I asked where this "rule of thumb comes" from and how/where it is applied in other studies, no response as of yet.....

      On thing that I see is maybe some folks could be overlooking the costs of dealing with CO-2, and on the other side, the costs of recycling the 50kg Prius batteries, just a 2 obvious examples. You may not get a bill from Toyota or GM, but you may have to pay more in taxes or higher food or heathcare costs to support those endeavors or their after-affects. Those are REAL quantifiable costs. It is no different than with the new compact florescent lights. They use a fraction of the electricity, and the considerably LONGER life means they use consume fewer resources in terms of glass and metal to produce compared to incandescent bulbs, but your need to remember to properly dispose of them to deal with the mercury content.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A Hummer - Prius comparison is silly but why not do a Prius - Matrix comparison or a Prius - Corolla - I would guess the Prius would lose. I suspect a small non hybrid vehicle is really the greenest car of all.
      • 7 Years Ago
      There are loads of myths and urban legends about hybrids, spread by the misinformed and the malevolent. The CNW report is simply a malevolent attempt to supress hybrid sales, it is good to see yet another debunking of that CNW BS.

      Ironically, the Romm article has comments, and one of the commenters spouted off several hybrid myths. Fortunately, the myths where promptly shot down by other commenters that know better.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, the reason that CNW's report is actually quoted at all despite being completely ludicrous, is because it's the lie everyone *wants* to believe. The people that believe it to be true haven't read the report, don't want to read the report, wouldn't understand the report even if they had read it (and that's fine, because it's garbleegook anyway, and *noone* can understand it), and basically just take it on faith. Much like how newspapers picked up on the story in the first place - basically reading only the press release and reprinting it instead of actually reading the report.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just a newbie here, so I haven't read the underlying articles yet. What I want to add is my own "research" on hybrid batteries.

      I have a hybrid and am of the mind to move to a full electric and agitate/evangelize for them. In order to do that with full conviction, I tried to find out from Toyota and Honda to what degree they can recycle and safely dispose of their batteries, figuring the same thing would be done with EV batteries. I found some good info on the Toyota website and followed up with an email on some additional questions. They claim that the majority of the content does not end up in land fills but in other products; that still leaves the question about the portion that doesn't get recycled and how harmful that is, and the question about the externalities from what is recycled - didn't get a good response on that. As for Honda, I recall nothing on their website and received no answer to my queries. Time to try again.

      As for the hummer, I would think it would add to the hummer's aura for hummer admirers if the planet was destroyed in the making of and operation of the hummers (yes, that's sarcasm).