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Monday, July 24, 2006

H2s vs Prius
Leave it to the idiot libertarians at Reason to come up with some serious BS. The latest? Hybrids are more costly to the environment than H2s because of indirect costs. You can read the so called research here.

I've been bitching about this over at the scienceblogs like Uncertain Principles. My big beef with the guys over there republishing this claptrap is that I don't think they actually read the report (or at least not carefully) before blogging on it as if the data were valid. There are a couple reasons why I think this happened. One is, scientists like inversions. They think it's neat when a piece of information that is popularly held is challenged. I understand this, I'm the same way. The second is the tendency to treat data as true, even if conclusions might be wrong.

Here's the problem. The data aren't true in this case.

If you actually read the report, which is written with all the clarity of a high schooler's junior thesis by a marketing research firm, you see there are some big problems. For one, they don't publish their methods.

Ok scientists. When someone spits out a bunch of numbers saying crazy shit like a $60k H2 weighing several tons is more costly to society than a 1/2 ton $21k prius, despite the fuel savings, it's time to see how they came up with this. When they don't publish the methods, then it's time to take that report and use it for toilet paper. It's already over.

But, if you're feeling really charitable you might continue to give the report some credibility. Why not? Sometimes you can infer how people come up with stuff, maybe it will be obvious from the "data". Maybe not.

The researchers use a figure which is the cost of the car per mile it is driven, and use to calculate this number they supposedly take the costs of production, maintainance, recycling etc (no description of how they come up with these numbers and they keep their raw data hidden) and divide by the average miles each type of car gets (although they never actually show their equation).

Well, two obvious things come up. Hybrid production costs are higher because the cars represent new technology, and production hasn't geared up like it has for other cars yet. That's pretty easy. The second, issue is that they list the average lifetime miles for hybrid cars at around 100k miles, while all the SUVs get liftime miles around 200-300k.

I call bullshit! If your denominator is the number of lifetime miles and you're giving the SUVs 2-3x as many miles as all the hybrids, of course the differences in efficiency between the two is going to disappear. They've made the lifetime of the hybrids artificially low, either because the cars are new to the market, or again, they might just be lying. Hard to say since they don't publish their methods or raw data.

Finally, this simply shouldn't have even passed the smell test for these scientists. The first sign? The writing, it's terrible, it's disorganized, it makes no sense. Second sign? Methods aren't systematically described. Third, the argument makes no sense. If hybrids really represent that much of a cost to consumer and society, why are the cars so inexpensive? And if it's hidden costs, why aren't hybrid drivers complaining that their little cars are costing them as much as multi-ton SUVs? How much you want to bet the cost of insuring these things wasn't included? How much you want to bet that if these costs were so high, someone wouldn't be raising holy hell? These "costs" have to be getting paid somehow, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. Where is the money coming from to pay for these costs that absorb the $40k difference between an Escalade or H2 and a Prius? I call shenanigans.


minimalist said...

I suspect it's not so much "scientists like inversions" as "libertarians like being contrarian." They love anything that seems to buck conventional wisdom because embracing it makes them look like Deep Thinkers. Even if they don't really understand a single word.

That's why you'll see the occasional libertarian blog that advocates teaching Intelligent Design; "oh sure we don't really believe it but you have to admit they raise devastating objections against traditional evolutionary dogma, like [list of decades-old creationist canards]"

So yeah, unfortunately I'm afraid this is already going to be accepted as solid fact in lolbertarian circles, your best efforts to the contrary.

11:19 AM, July 24, 2006

Rev. Dr. said...


Libertarians make me totally nuts, your characterization is just dead on.


11:56 AM, July 24, 2006

Rev. Dr. said...

That was a cry of dismay and frustration by the way, not laughter.

11:56 AM, July 24, 2006


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