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Pragmentalists vs. environmentalists (part I): Prius – green or greenwash?

What is the actual impact of hybrids? In this paper, we are will analyze hybrids, ranging from the conventional Toyota Prius to fashionable plug-in hybrids. Our focus here is on highlighting the actual carbon emission reduction of hybrids (particularly vis-à-vis biofuels), and discussing the best possible solutions to reduce these emissions at a reasonable cost both in the near and long-term. We object to greenwashing (powered by large marketing machines) that obfuscate the facts that suggest hybrids can solve our problems. Corn ethanol, which has been heavily maligned in the mainstream media, reduces carbon emissions (on a per mile driven basis) by almost the same amount as today’s typical hybrid. Despite the similar environmental profiles – one is a media darling, and the other is maligned despite its much more competitive economics (not that we are advocating corn ethanol). We believe that corn ethanol is paving the way for cellulosic ethanol, which will prove to be a cleaner and cheaper source of our transportation fuel needs for the foreseeable future – the table below provides a quick summary of our in-class comparisons (more detail later in the paper). In the long run, we don’t need to worry about corn ethanol – cellulosic ethanol will be cheaper within a few years and will replace it (and other food based fuels like classic biodiesel)…

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