Monday, February 06, 2006

Hybrid Hoo Haa

It is with some dismay that I have watched the wave of public acclaim wash over the hybrid automobile market segment recently. Even my two daughters have been summarily brainwashed by their liberal teachers to believe that hybrids will be the salvation of our pollution crisis.

The most piercing analysis of the product group which I have read was written a few weeks ago by Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal's OpEd page. In that piece, and it may even have been two pieces, he accurately roasted vendors for preying on consumers' naivete and consciences, while doing virtually nothing to "solve" any "crisis."

Basically, Mr. Jenkins pointed out that, with the current demand for gasoline, hybrid owners are not "saving" any of the fuel, so much as they are allowing others to buy an unchanged amount of it at possibly lower prices, should hybrids actually reduce overall gasoline demand. If anything, they may actually increase energy usage, as they use the power grid to recharge, thus consuming even more hydrocarbons. So much for less pollution.

But the best part of his editorial was his analysis of the economics of buying one of these cars. I don't have the detailed numbers at hand, but he essentially demonstrated that, at the incredible premiums these vehicles command at retail, they set consumers back far, far more in cash than they can reasonably be presumed to be "saving" at the gas pump.

Now, that last point is important, because I have noticed Ford recently pinning its hopes for survival on hybrids. This morning, a representative of the company was on CNBC, touting it's "long" history of producing the vehicles. My question is, exactly who is supposed to be shelling out the extra thousands of dollars one pays to cleanse one's conscience when purchasing a hybrid vehicle?

Is it reasonable to expect to save Ford on the back of a vehicle that is actually uneconomical to buy? Just because George Bush mentioned the vehicle type in his State of the Union address does not, I think, mean it's going to bail out Ford or GM.

However, in the spirit of green folk everywhere, please do go out and buy a hybrid. Save me some money at the gas pump this winter!

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