Not too long ago, the trend du jour was being a locavore, which means “eating stuff that’s grown close to the source.” Why? Well, it’s because that sack of lettuce you’re picking up at the MegaMarket gets grown in Salinas, CA, say, and then gets driven to a packaging plant in, oh, Florida, then – eventually – finds its way to you. Meaning: you might be eating like a sparrow, but your carbon footprint looks like Bigfoot. (We’re not even counting the methane from your farts – pick up some Beano, boyo!)
Turns out, your Prius is produced the same way. Blame the very thing that makes it “green”: its nickel metal hydride battery.
The nickel is mined in Sudbury, Ontario, and smelted nearby, doing damage to the local environment. The smelted nickel is shipped to Wales, where it is refined. Then it is sent to China to be made into nickel foam. Then it goes to Japan, where it is made into a battery. Then it goes into cars, some of which are shipped to the United States and some of which go to Europe. All of that seaborne transport consumes a lot of fossil fuel.
Here’s where it gets embarrassing: CNW Marketing rates cars on the combined energy needed “to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage.” The Hummer H3 is rated at $2.07 per lifetime mile. The Prius? $2.87 per lifetime mile.
This isn’t to say you should drive a Hummer. It’s to remember that trendy marketing doesn’t necessarily equal an environmentally cool product. Don’t let your green thumb make your face red.