Thursday, April 12, 2007

George Will's Paranoia

George Will has yet another column today that desperately tries to prove how wrong all us tree-huggers are about so-called "global warming". He has a bizarre obsession with proving to his readers how global warming is a hoax dreamed up by liberals who want to use it as a political tool.

It's not so much his opinions as the language he uses to describe them that comes across as so paranoid. He uses terms like "media-entertainment-environmental complex" and "indoctrination" and "opinion-forming institutions" that connote a shadowy conspiracy. You'd think environmentalists were like the Masons or Skull & Crossbones Society, meeting in underground caves. Really, we're not all that hard to find -- try looking in Rosslyn's Gateway Park on Saturday.

Will also embarrassingly latches on to a report from CNW Market Research, that paragon of science, to make the argument that we really all should just go about our business and stop talking about this silly climate change nonsense. Conservatives LOVE to cite the CNW report, which very few independent sources have analyzed. A Google search only turned up one actual reader of the report, a letter to the editor in The Oregonian:

After spending eight hours on Sunday reading and analyzing the 458-page "Dust to Dust" report from CNW Marketing, I can report that this document has no basis for its findings, and lacking these, I can only attack the ludicrous conclusions that follow from the endless tables of results.

Did you know that at the end of a car's life, the societal energy cost to dismantle the Prius is $326,000; $363,000 for the H3 Hummer, and $400,000 for the Honda Civic? There is no information to suggest why the end-of-life energy costs are about 10 times higher than the car's initial purchase price. And this is purported to be only energy cost -- no labor, no equipment.

Here is the crowning gem: If you take the reported energy cost and apply it to the 14.6 million vehicles scrapped each year, you can calculate that the total annual incurred societal energy cost is
$6.2 trillion. This is higher than all U.S. energy expenditures as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Keep driving the hybrids and don't trust marketers to report societal energy cost information!

Southwest Portland


Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to have read the whole Dust to Dust Report (available here, Nonetheless, I wonder why you did not read it yourself. Why quote a letter to editor? Anyway, that guy apparently did not understand the report. The social energy cost is the total energy cost to produce, OPERATE, and dispose of a vehicle. These are projected numbers. As the report says on page 276:

"For the CNW evaluation, we used three measures to determine or outline future technological advances in the disposal and other categories. Weve listed the total energy cost as minimum, medium and maximum to provide a range of what we determined was the likelihood of such technological disposal advances.

As the table below shows, the share of minimum of maximum is generally in the mid-80 percent range. Luxury vehicles generally have a narrow difference between high and low than do general-market vehicles. Hybrids generally are slightly above industry average because of the complexity of the vehicles and the advances that are being made in making hybrids more mainstream which should bring the minimum-to-maximum ratio closer to industry average over time."

The letter to the editor did not even get the numbers right. Here are the medium total costs and the estimated per mile costs.

Honda Civic Total = $ 450,747.78 and per mile = $2.420 Life miles = 178,000

Hummer H3 Total = $ 421,003.58 and per mile = $1.949 Life miles = 207,000

Toyota Prius Total = $ 384,329.24 and per mile = $3.249 Life miles = 109,000

Page 10 notes that:

"One of the reasons hybrids cost more than non-hybrids is the manufacture, replacement and disposal of such items as batteries, electric motors (in addition to the conventional engine), lighter weight materials and complexity of the power package."

Page 10 also notes that:

"For example, while the industry average of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 was $2.28 cents per mile, the Hummer H3 (among most SUVs) was only $1.949 cents per mile. That figure is also lower than all currently offered hybrids and Honda Civic at $2.42 per mile."

Exactly why the H3 does so well as compared to the Civic, I don't know. Perhap shipping a car across an ocean has something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

The CNW evaluation assumes different mileages for the cars- that's the first error. It assumes the Hummer H3 will go for 207,000 miles, the Civic for 178,000 miles, and the Prius for 109,000 miles. 109,000 miles?!?!?! That's a ridiculously low assumption for ANY car these days. And 207,000 miles for the H3? Are they joking?

As for the total cost of the Civic being higher than the cost of the H3... THAT is a total fabrication. The H3 contains more raw material, weighs more, and costs more. And shipping has nothing to do with it- Honda Civics sold here in the US are built here in the US. The CNW report was biased from the beginning, and should be regarded as worthless. For starters, they need to set a mileage and stick with it.

Perhaps they use an average mileage for light trucks and an average mileage for passenger cars. Yes, light trucks average higher mileage than passenger cars... that's skewed, however, by pickup trucks, particularly 3/4 ton and 1 ton models, that are used continuously and often go 3-400,000 miles before they are scrapped. Typical midsize SUVs like the H3 (the H3 is the little Hummer) have an average mileage comparable to the passenger cars they substitute for. As for the Prius only lasting 109,000 miles, they must be assuming that the battery pack will only last that long (they seem to be lasting longer in the field, though) and that when the battery is done, that the car will be scrapped. Battery replacement costs about $1,000 to $2,000. for a new pack. The oldest Priuses sold are still worth over $5-7,000. Owners would certainly do the repair. Also, good used battery packs are on the market for $500- $1,000, and the battery is NOT hard to replace.

MichaelH said...

I do place extensive doubts on the credibility of the CNW Report, and I do note the tendency of conservatives to try to hand-wave away the seriousness of climate change (I view recent extreme weather events to be substantial indicators in themselves).

However, I do see how developing countries contribute a huge amount of carbon/methane to the environment by using primitive burning methods of coal and even cowpies in some places. I wonder if it would be much more efficient and effective to concentrate on sending groups to help developing countries build and utilize more efficient and clean energy generating systems in order to reduce the total global carbon footprint. I do believe there is a certain point of diminishing returns with trying to make efficient/clean energy generation and use even more efficient/clean.

I am very interested in making sure the climate is stabilized, and hope everyone maintains an open mind about the best way to go about that.