February 06, 2007

How the Toyota Prius Exposes the Republican-Democratic Divide

I'm driving with someone close to me who is a staunch Republican. We see a Toyota Prius. The following conversation ensues:

She: I hear that the Prius doesn't pay for itself in gas money for five years. (Note: I guarantee that factoid came from Fox News. It assumes that the Prius costs some premium over what? An imaginary Prius with a gasoline-only engine? A "similar" car, as if there was one? This factoid also assumes some fixed price of gasoline. Who knows what price Fox chose? Anyway, all of this misses the point, which is...)
Me: That is such a Republican way of thinking. You would only buy a Prius if it saved you money. What's in it for me? I got mine, you get your own. Democrats buy Priuses because they use less gasoline and help the environment.

It continues to amaze me how different the Republican mentality is from the Democratic mentality in the U.S.


At 4:49 PM, Blogger A Unique Alias said...

So she made a statement of 15 words, and you replied with 44.

What do you drive?

At 4:57 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Thanks for your comment, UA. The conversation is repeated here to the best of my memory. The actual word count may be off a bit. I plead guilty to being verbose. But I have to ask, what is your point? I drive a 2-door car that gets about 33 m.p.g. on the highway. I would seriously consider getting a Prius for my next car, even though there is a long waiting list for them where I live. Again, I have to ask, what is your point? Perhaps people of few words should take a few more words to clearly explain what they are trying to say.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger A Unique Alias said...

My point? Her comment may well have been valid. Neither you nor I have done the research.

The purpose of my question was a very thinly-veiled attempt to attack your position on fuel conservation.

Frankly, vehicles like the Prius which are designed around the reclamation of inertia are very inefficient. Alternative fuels, such as biodeisel, are much more environmentally friendly.

Sure, you can get an extra 10 miles per gallon driving a Prius. Is that really solving the problem? Consult physicist David Deutsch, when he says in his acclaimed TED speech, "The world is currently buzzing with plans to force reductions in gas emissions. At all costs! But it ought to be buzzing more with plans to reduce the temperature, or with plans for how to live with a higher temperature. And not at all costs but efficiently and cheaply."


At 5:45 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

I'm all for increased use of alternative fuels and efforts to reduce global temperature. Republicans have been attacking these solutions for years, and many even deny that there is a global warming problem. In the meantime, what's wrong with saving 10 miles per gallon per car? Multiplied by the hundreds of millions of cars on our roads and the billions of miles they drive, this savings would add up very quickly, reducing our dependence on oil, saving everyone money, reducing harm to the environment, reducing the power of oil-rich nations in the Middle East run by very nasty people, and making the world safer. At the same time, we should make the very important efforts you mention. The two are not mutually exclusive.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Aileen said...

Good post- good points.

And aren't you tempted to say- "See yesterday's post" ? :)

At 5:56 PM, Blogger A Unique Alias said...

Let me say that I'm not partisan. Democrats and Republicans are equally worthless in my eyes.

That said, the razor as described by my cited physicist is all about effeciency and cost-feasibility.

Until cars like the Prius aren't viewed (and priced) as a luxury, they will not be accepted as a replacement for vehicles that cost half as much while delivering similar fuel economy.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Aileen, this does remind me of what I said yesterday. If I knew UA and knew his views in advance, I probably would not want to engage him in a political discussion. However, I am encouraged by my exchange here with UA that people can have civil exchanges in which they disagree.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

If it's true that the Prius costs more than some non-hybrid cars, that's to be expected given that the Prius has a technology not previously used widely. The price of the technology will likely drop, just like the price of flat panel hdtv monitors, dvd players and other products after they are first introduced. Meanwhile, the free market works and some people will buy the car now (as evidenced by the long waiting lists in many areas) regardless of the point in time when it will "pay for itself," while others will wait until the price drops, and others, probably, will never buy it because they are philosophically opposed to saving oil.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger A Unique Alias said...

I appreciate the discourse; the cataclysmic issues we are faced with make strawmen shudder and pale.

Cheers, kiddo.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

We own one Prius and when my 1991 Honda dies, we will buy a similar car to replace it. I too am in favor of some of the things that exist only in labs right now, but a Hybrid is about the best thing currently on the market, short of giving up one's car altogether.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Dsquared said...

Aa a Prius owner, let me chime in here:

1. I typically get about 44 mpg driving around town. So, I'd like to ask UA what cars he is referring to for half the price and similar gas mileage?

2. There is a small premium for the Prius, but if you don't want to pay it, get a Honda hybrid. The markup for it is considerably less.

3. Scientific fact: You can save 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year if your new car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than your current one. So, what do you think the average fuel efficiency of the US auto fleet is? 20.4 mpg.

So, I'm saving 24000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually compared to the average US car owner. Just think if everyone switched?

(note: i don't use blogger any longer. so, ignore the link at the top. unfortunately, your blog is set up so that I can't enter a name and url for my actual wordpress blog. other blogger folks let you do that)

At 8:44 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Thanks dsquared, you know more than I do. Those numbers are quite dramatic. I was just migrated over to New Blogger, and it's so bad that I may move to WordPress. In the meantime, if I can figure out how to permit comments from WordPress bloggers, I will do so.

At 8:33 PM, Blogger Dsquared said...

media concepts - I wrote a post about converting from Blogger to WordPress. I hated Blogger.

Looking2live is on blogger and does allow me to post as my WP blog. Maybe you can get an idea from looking at that one.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Matthias Goodman said...

Well, that is an interesting perspective you have on republicans. I am a republican. I would consider myself very conservative. I drive a Prius. I have it for many reasons, one of which is that I think it is a good idea to encourage companies to think differently and do the best they can to protect the environment. I think we will see more and more of that: companies producing products with the environment in mind.

That being said, I have heard many conflicting reports on the usefulness of the Prius in reducing energy consumption. Even according to Toyota it only barely reduces my energy footprint (it takes more energy to create and contains more toxins than a normal car). All that doesn't really matter to me, it is a fun car and it is a step in the right direction.

So, here is at least one "staunch republican" that is pro-Prius (the only problem so far is that so many fellow Prius owners assume that I am out in left field). Oh, and I am pro-immigration too.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger david said...

How stupid a generalization this person makes. I'm a Republican and a Prius owner. My Prius does not "save" the environment. It's a car with great gas mileage and shitty acceleration and handling. It still uses gas at the pump. I don't wear my Prius as some self-righteous badge for silly political statement. It uses less gas and that's it. It saves money. Not the environment. I don't see my Toyota Prius planting a tree or donating to charity anytime soon. How hilarious. Everyone buys a product for what's in it for them. For Mrs Self-righteous, it's the ability to act smug and think that her Prius tailpipe billows out unicorns, blue-skies and the ghost of Al Gore floating above her while she drives. What's in it for her is to feel good about all the other capitalistic items that were brought to the comfort of her home via factories, ships, planes, trucks using massive amounts of "environment destructive" gas -like the computer she used to type this email, her cell phone, iPod, Puma sneakers, all the IKEA furniture in her apartment, her oven, fridge, hot water heater, every article of clothing she bought at Urban Outfitters ... shall I go on? It all is brought to her by oil and gas...but owning a Prius gives her some advertising generated vision of self-granduer? Ha. Think again.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger chalacuna said...

wether we like it or not, fuel prices will keep on rising. so many factors pointed out which contributes to the crises. the main reason is simply the law of supply and demand.

the major oil players like OPEC are very smart that they are able to control the supply to make an artificial demand.

the best we can do is to conserve fuel by using less or none at all. stay away from those luxury cars..

Hybrid SUV and
Renewable Fuel Source

At 5:07 PM, Blogger colossalvisions said...

A true "green" solution would require one to move to Walden, like Henry David Thoreau. Of course, as a realist, I don't really expect most Americans possess the discipline nor are willing to adhere to the type of ascetic lifestyle needed to create a Green society.

From a more pragmatic view, I think the Prius should invest more of its advertising campaign energy and capital on promoting the Prius as a money saver rather than a Green machine. Mainly, I feel that many left leaning Prius owners, who implicitly or explicitly champion certain liberal environmental discourses--such as survivalism, economic rationalism, administrative rationalism sustainable development--do not truly practice what they preach. As these self-congratulating urban yuppies cruise through downtown on their way to a posh, five-star restaurant with valet parking listening to NPR or Democracy Now! on XM, I truly feel that, in some ways, they are no different than the Republicans that they so often criticize. They are quick to congratulate themselves for a job well-done, but, in reality, they have merely sugar coated the problem, rather than really address the environmental problem head on. They, like most human beings, are more invested in their self-interests, self-pleasures, than in making the necessary sacrifices needed to forward the agenda that they disingenuously preach over a gourmet dinner.
If you were completely true to your word, you would ride the bus or pedal a bicycle to ALL of your destinations like I do.

I actually do have more respect for people who admit to driving a Prius because it saves them gas, rather than self-righteous people who claim they are defending the Earth. You're not. You're merely slowing down a process that will surely continue; you are not solving any problems. These Prius drivers nauseate me just as much as the frivolous, flamboyant Lincoln Navigator drivers I used to encounter in my old Midwest or my new West coast hometown.


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