Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prius Envy

I want a Toyota Prius. I drove a Prius. I liked the Prius. The Prius would cut our car-related carbon emissions by more than half. Our most efficient car gets 24 miles to the gallon and the Prius gets between 50 and 60 miles per gallon.

More importantly, the Prius would cut my guilt over having such a large carbon footprint.

How much is it worth to reduce my carbon guilt? The Prius is not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be, with the lowest priced variant starting at about $23,500. Still, we calculated that after a down payment we'd pay about $400 per month for 5 years for the Prius. Hmmm... $400 per month compared to $0 (our cars are paid off.) I feel guilty over my energy use---but not that guilty.

I have been musing about the money aspects of the green technology movement. I will be starting graduate school in the fall and my income will drop in half. So even though I have a husband with a decent income, we're not exactly in a place where we can afford to make large capital outlays to replace energy-hogging cars and appliances. As with most things in America, we are free to make green choices--if we have the money to do it.

Sometimes I wonder what I'm feeling so guilty about. I was raised in the sprawl of suburban Detroit, born into a middle-class culture that unthinkingly relies on the car for all transportation. Sure, I would love to buy a home close to an urban center, but those tend to be too expensive for a social worker and freelance journalist to afford. I have been trying to ride my bike as much as possible, but there are limits imposed by dangerous roads. There are huge barriers to what an individual alone can accomplish with voluntary efforts to reduce carbon emissions. I am implicated in global warming, in a small way, but this problem is not my fault. Buying a Prius I can't afford is not a reasonable solution to an environmental problem with economic, social, and cultural roots.