Why Hybrid is Not So Green After All

The big movement in energy these days is to be “green,” or rather – environmentally friendly. It’s in the media, in our workplaces, at our homes, on our appliances, and in the excess junk mail we all receive. And, while being green is a valuable and worthwhile cause, it takes thought and effort to actually accomplish the task – not superficial mumbo jumbo. Even the automotive industry is pushing for green with their hybrid vehicles that improve efficiencies by sharing their power consumption with liquid fuels and electricity. But – what is green?

Green is certainly not producing new automotive lines each and every year, leaving behind a trail of non-recycled, junk-yard vehicles. Green is certainly not the huge amounts of energy consumed in making and transporting those vehicles. But, on that matter, I digress …. *sigh*

Maybe you went out and looked at one of those fancy, hybrid, boxy (or clown-sized) vehicles and thought about the money you’d be saving in gasoline costs at the pump vs. the high electricity bill. And, you may have even ran through the mass-explosion of media in your mind, thinking about how you would be helping save the planet. But, that’s what’s one of the biggest complaints I have with our society today – “sheeple” that are spoon-fed information and eat it up! Of course, with time, I’ve come to realize that I have been pointing the finger at the wrong crowd and for that – I apologize. Rather than blaming the zombies … er, um, I mean, “people” who go around doing whatever they’re told… um, again, pardon me, I mean, go around trying to live their lives independent and free, the blame should be on the media and corporations who fail to educate people or spend money on real solutions vs. profit shares. (Pent up passive aggression, much?)

Let’s think about the reasons “why” gasoline is not green: The resource is not renewable and as it is consumed, it runs out. The amount of energy and carbon / greenhouse emissions in the conversion of oil into gasoline (amongst the other byproducts) is extremely high. And, of course, there’s always the output of carbon emissions from gas-burning vehicles as we clog our highways every day. Thank goodness for electricity, right?

Think about this carefully …. where does the electricity come from?

When you plug in your toaster, or your new-age, super advanced, high processing cell phone, you’re drawing power from the local utilities. They, in turn, draw their power from a number of sources – the majority of which are … you got it – non renewable. Power on the grid relies mostly on coal and nuclear energy – not clean energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric power. While renewable energy is out there – I will save that for a future discussion.

That means, that although hybrid’s are not burning up as much “gasoline”, or oil, as non-hybrid vehicles, they are substituting the rest with coal and nuclear energy – but mostly coal. That’s … pretty dirty. And, although it improves efficiencies, when you understand the amount of carbon emissions from the use of coal … well – it’s actually pretty cruddy and starts to make gasoline look .. well – at least equal.

Of course, you say “Nuclear” power is clean! And – except for the occasional nuclear plant melt-down, radiation leakage, massive water consumption, or the massive leaching and environmental disaster that comes from mining plutonium, you’d be almost correct! See, the problem is – nuclear is not “renewable.” Not only will the plutonium (or uranium – or whatever they’re using now) run out – but once those plutonium cells are used up, they have to be disposed, under a LOT of concrete, thus  destroying the environmental locations where they’re buried.  Go ahead and google what happens to it – but be forewarned, it could make you feel not so “warm and fuzzy” deep down. Then there’s the misnomer of how nuclear and coal energy is used. Did you know, that right now, sitting in front of your highly advanced, electronic device with innovative technology that you’re relying on 1903 steam power tech?

Yep – you’re running on steam!! Yay – super advances in technology and civilization, and we still rely on – steam!!.

So, yes – hybrid is a better alternative than just running the planet’s oil reserves dry. But, is it “green?” Well, if by green you mean, really dark brown with a few, dark-green shades and a long trail of goop behind it, then yes!! What does that mean at the car dealership? They can show you your savings on gas, but now that you know that the electricity costs will continue to be high and that the “hype” of hybrid is a lot of hot steam, you can have them lower that price tag about 25%!!

All cynicism aside, there’s a more valuable lesson to be learned here. While our individual efforts may only have an incrementally small impact in a very small way, when we consider just how small those impacts are, the more we begin to see the need to be really conscientious about our world and how we treat it. Our negative impacts far outweigh our positive impacts in an almost impossibly overwhelming level. Therefore – we should each look for opportunities to do more and help where we can.

Now that we’re done here, turn off that computer and save a little steam!!! 🙂

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