Don’t Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead: Wired Magazine argues that buying a used car is vastly more energy efficient than buying a new Prius.
Making a Prius consumes 113 million BTUs, according to sustainability engineer Pablo Paster. A single gallon of gas contains about 113,000 Btus, so Toyota’s green wonder guzzles the equivalent of 1,000 gallons before it clocks its first mile. A used car, on the other hand, starts with a significant advantage: The first owner has already paid off its carbon debt.
I’ve often wondered about this: should we all just buy used cars? I look at the folks down in Cuba who have kept 1950s-era cars running just fine for decades now.
But then I think, doesn’t buying a used car just free someone else up to buy a new car? If you buy a used car, are you preventing a new car from being built? Or is it still going to be built and just go to someone else? You might not be directly responsible for a new car being built, but you’re indirectly responsible in the sense that you enable the market to exist. Right?
The sad, inescapable fact this all hints at is this: we just need buy less stuff, in general. We tend to only consider the energy efficiency of something once it’s built. We ignore the fact that an enormous amount of energy and resources go into building something in the first place. We pat ourselves on the back because we bought the efficient option, conveniently glossing over the manufacturing piece of it.
I guess that’s because once it’s built, that cost is sunk — it’s already incurred, so we therefore don’t feel responsible for it. I mean, the Prius is already built, and there’s nothing I can do about that right? But, back to my previous point, are we somewhat responsible because we enable the market?
At the risk of a jarring analogy, it’s like child porn. In the eyes of the law, if you consume it, you’re just as guilty as if you produced it, because without you, the market couldn’t exist and it wouldn’t need to be produced in the first place.
So, perhaps the true environmentally-friendly answer is…don’t buy a car at all? Buy a bike? But how much energy does a bike take to manufacture?!? Oh, hell, just walk then. But the walking shoes…
So, the final solution: walk naked (link mildly NSFW, but highly relevant).
Wired has a whole series of articles in the latest issue debunking sacred cows of environmentalism. It’s a good read.