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Many area residents are looking for ways to protect the environment and save energy. Many are concerned that the car they drive is not efficient enough and they need to get rid of it and get an electric car like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, or maybe a compressed natural gas car like the Honda Civic CNG, or maybe finally get a hybrid like the venerable Toyota Prius. Yet, most don’t have the money to make this kind of investment. Or do we?

Last year America spent $100 Billion more on gasoline! That is $100 Billion with a “B.” We are getting taxed to death by the oil producers. We need to take a look at the bigger picture, when it comes to buying cars today.

The Nay-Sayers will question the reliability of the new electric cars, just as they did the Prius when it came out. They will question how green they are, just as they did the Prius. Among the noted concerns about the Prius, just as it is for the Leaf and Volt today, were that the electric batteries will fail and leave owners with thousands of dollars in bills.  Other reports stated that it took more energy to produce the Prius than a Hummer would use over its lifetime. Well, should you ditch your plans to buy one of these leading-edge, energy-efficient cars? What should we do?

Back in the Day, the Sierra Club pointed out that the concerns about the Prius are simply  “urban legends.” Some of the anti-Prius information came from a marketing company study whose research was not scientifically reviewed.  George Will, the very conservative writer who was syndicated in 450 papers at the time, had even written an article called "Use a Hummer to Crush a Prius." In it he took space to trash Ben and Jerry’s and the Kyoto climate agreements. With the use of simple math (or not so simple for some of us), the Sierra Club disproved the arguments against the Prius. The club showed that if the arguments were true, then the Prius would be so expensive that Toyota could not possibly afford to manufacture it. The Union of Concerned Scientists' stated that the “…study has been completely contradicted by scientific studies from MIT, Argonne National Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon's Lifecycle Assessment Group. The reality is that the Prius “…can significantly cut global-warming pollution, reduce energy use, and save drivers thousands at the pump."  And this next wave of cars can do even more!

Some reports flagged the nickel metal hydride battery of the Prius as a major environmental hazard but these reports too are highly exaggerated. The Sierra Club pointed out that these reports “…describe the nickel mining industry of Canada from 30 years ago, not of today.” Each Prius battery contain 32 pounds of nickel  and the total nickel required by all the Prius being made are only a fraction of the world's supply of nickel. The batteries for the first one million Prius’ manufactured, used only one percent of the world's annual nickel-mining production. Further, about 80 percent of all used nickel is recycled. Used Prius batteries are recycled by Toyota. The Toyota battery has a 100,000 mile warranty is expected to last for at least 180,000 miles and so there is little worry that these will suddenly go dead on the owners. As of 2012, Toyota has not had to replace any main batteries in any operating cars, even from cars sold in 2000 that are still on the road.

Today, overreaction will work itself out and manufacturers will work out the problems. The Leaf and Volt have pretty extensive battery warrantees. We will move to the future…

So, should we each “Go Green” and run out and get a Leaf, Volt, Civic or Prius? Well, it depends because green is still a bit pricey. According to the American Council of an Energy Efficient Economy's Green Car Ratings (GCR), the Leaf and Civic are the greenest cars of all – they both scored 54. While the list price of Leaf is over $33,000, with potential tax credits that price may be as low as $26,000 but still has a range of only 100 miles. The Civic list price is about $21,000 but it has the issue of obtaining compressed natural gas at home and around town. Not far behind on the green list are, among others, are the Volt and Prius. The Volt (48 on GCR) list price is a loftier $41,000, less potential tax credit is still over $33,000. The Prius (52 on GCR) weighs in at about $24,000.

These prices and challenges may deter some, but for others they are an opportunity to put their money where there conscience is and this should be greatly appreciated by those of us who can’t quite make the leap, as early votes of confidence and volume will bring more options to the market and hopefully drive prices down.

Some may simply want to buy a used car as an important form of reducing, reusing and recycling. For them, finding a high quality, high miles-per-gallon used car such as a Civic or Corolla may be the best bet. Others who want a new car but one that is less expensive than the Prius can look at the Ford Fiesta (50 on GCR). Others, with some mechanical ingenuity may want to convert their car to one that runs on recycling cooking oil.

No matter what you decide, most important of all is that you walk, use mass transit, bike ride and car pool as much as possible and use you car only when absolutely necessary. Think of the environment before any travel and think locally when making purchases and when vacationing. Enjoy the local scene and realize how much we have close at hand.

No matter what car you end up in, using it efficiently is most important. For tips on efficient driving go to EarthEasy:

To find ratings on most efficient cars, go to Consumer Reports:

Paul Tick in a long time activist in making the World a better place to live for all of us. He founded and manges the Delmar Farmers Market, a better place to shop for your local food and crafts. He can be reached via email through our Members listing.

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