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Wall Street Journal Slams Hybrid Cars, Again

by Chris Kulczycki Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 11:18:51 AM EST

from the diaries. -- Jérôme

Sometimes the absurdity of a columnist leaves me speechless. Take this column from today's WSJ by Holman W. Jenkins Jr. All I can do is shake my head in wonder.

First he writes a fake letter from Toyota (please see my post on his past column); today he comes out with this:

But doesn't saving oil have benefits beyond the dollars saved -- for instance, postponing the doom of civilization?

No: If Prius owners consume less, there's less demand, prices will be lower and somebody else will step up to consume more than they would at the otherwise higher price. That's the price mechanism at work. Oil is a fantastically useful commodity. Humans can be relied upon to consume all the oil they'd be willing to consume at a given price.

But wouldn't using less oil make us less dependent on Mideast imports?

Just the opposite: In the nature of things, the cheapest oil is consumed first, and Mideast oil is the cheapest. Drive a Hummer if you want to reduce America's reliance on Arab oil. Indeed, if we could all just pull together and drive gasoline prices high enough, we'd be able to satisfy all our fuel needs next door from Canadian oil sands.

So why are you Europeans driving such efficient cars? Don’t you see all the harm your causing. Jerome, get a Hummer.

Let it also be noted our primary political interest in the Middle East over the past 50 years has been Israel, which has no oil. Even Saddam would have been delighted to sell us all the oil we wanted if we had been prepared to acquiesce in his extracurricular depredations. Our attempt to reform Iraqi society is costing us many multiples of the real value of Iraqi oil exports to the world market.

To wit, let's not underestimate the degree to which our overseas entanglements are despite our interest in oil, rather than because of it.

Oil doesn’t relate to foreign policy? This is the Wall Street Journal?

In any case, fuel economy plays an ambiguous role in the fight against air pollution. Our considerable progress against the traditional pollutants has come by specifying allowable emissions per mile driven, not per gallon consumed. Meanwhile, CAFE rules raise the cost of a car while reducing the cost of operating it. Being rational even when they don't meant to be, consumers respond by getting more use of out their cars -- driving 15,000 miles per year, up from 10,000 since the rules were adopted. (And auto makers have met this demand by greatly improving vehicle reliability.)

That leaves carbon dioxide, aka greenhouse gas, to support the increasingly rickety rationale for treating fuel efficiency as a socially desirable end in itself. Here, we can only suggest Prius fans might do the planet more good by convincing the American public of the merits of nuclear energy, the closest thing to a genuinely "green solution" to energy challenges in the real world.

This is part of Toyota’s response to Jenkins’s last car column:

Mr. Jenkins used some inventive math to try to make the case against hybrids, including saying a comparable car to the Prius costs $9,500 less. I'd like to provide some different numbers that speak to the real heart of this matter -- customer acceptance. This year, a Consumer Reports survey of more than 250,000 car owners ranked the Prius as the most satisfying vehicle, with 94% saying they'd buy one again.

Another significant number is 100 million -- that's the gallons of gas we estimate our U.S. hybrids have saved since the Prius debuted in 2000. That's enough to fuel a fleet of 200,000 delivery vehicles for a year. As much as I'd like to take credit by saying we are brilliant marketers and have painted a green picture to sell our products, the people who purchase our vehicles know the truth -- our cars tell the story for us.

Am I missing something here? Can anyone assure me that I’ve not fallen down the rabbit hole?

I’ll leave you with one final thought. This is what the people that run the US read. And as Napoleon Bonaparte said: "In politics stupidity is not a handicap."

I'm off to see a class of elementary school kids put on a Christmas show, where life still make sense.

Wall Street should stick to what they are good at - critisizing Costco for being too generous to its employees and customers. The whole automotive business shebang is a little too tough for them to crack. I pray the poor folks at GM and Ford do not employ any of these tools to find a solution to their problems.

Mikhail from SF
by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Wed Dec 14th, 2005 at 06:56:09 PM EST
This guy has heard about some provocative ideas from mathematical economics (like the free-rider effect on conservation) but can't quite get his head around them.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 14th, 2005 at 07:25:20 PM EST
But wouldn't using less oil make us less dependent on Mideast imports?

Just the opposite: In the nature of things, the cheapest oil is consumed first, and Mideast oil is the cheapest. Drive a Hummer if you want to reduce America's reliance on Arab oil.

Amazing... This kind of logic in the leading financial newspaper.

by das monde on Wed Dec 14th, 2005 at 11:11:51 PM EST
He is very smart and a complete asshole, sorry to say it so clear.

He knows that the reduction in oil consumption in cars, if there is not control in the offer, will lead to the use of oil in other parts of the economy because of the low prices. Of course, he forgets that hybrids is the technology to use when the quantity of oil is reduced and you want to keep a smooth increase in the prices according to demand and offer.

So he forgets fluctuation effects because he never heard about them. The fact that consuming Hummers will lead to extreme fluctuations in price making hte life of the middle-class awfull... but he does not give a damn.

And now I should go for the asshole stuff. He is an asshole because he is the typical idiot bragging that he knows something when he really did not understand a jot (Migeru put it better than myself in this thread).

Consuming more oil to depend less on Middle East? he is an asshole, the fact that the ratio of oil from the MIddle East is LESS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEIR RELEVANCE IS LESS..  you idiot!!!! This is, if you ever can get very expensive oil from the sources he says.. The canadian oil is some kind of joke when you do not even know the basic facts...

SHHHHH there is nothing like trasing the asshole in the block... it makes you feel better. The author, he just needs a brain transplant... or maybe increase the bribe he may be taking from certain industries (well bribes, bribes.. who says bribes says money from a wonderful consultory that happens to represent a client with strong affiliations to certain industry.. for example).

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 03:53:44 AM EST
Facts? Logic? We don't need no stinkin' facts, God darn it! We're the WSJ editorial page. Logic is for wussies, like, you know, evul godless libruls.
by Francois in Paris on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 08:59:03 AM EST
"- Mr Jenkins, if I bitch slap you in the face will it hurt?"

"- Well, contrarily to what logic may dictate, if you bitch slap me in the face, I will enjoy it very much. You see, accepting that you slap me is actually good for social interaction, as it will please you, and since social interaction is the premise for reproduction, and since reproduction is required to maintain a constant flow of new American consumers, I serve my country by accepting that you slap me in the face."

by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 11:42:10 AM EST

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