I just saw an interesting statistic in "Design News" (engineering magazine) that claimed that making a pound of steel or plastic required the energy input of about two pounds of oil, while the production of a pound of aluminium requires the energy input of about five pounds of oil. Now consider that in light of the prospect of purchasing a 3000 lb Toyota Prius to "save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissons."
Now let's be fair, here; making the Prius requires mostly coal for energy, not oil, so there is probably a net reduction in petroleum usage after one reduces gasoline use by only a few hundred gallons--about a year or so of use. However, from a carbon emissions point of view, you're talking not about 6000 lbs of oil, but rather about 10000 pounds of coal. You only "break even" from a carbon emissions standpoint after you save about 1500 gallons of gasoline.
So if you trade in an ordinary compact car (Cobalt, Civic, Corolla, etc..) for a Prius, you can expect to balance the carbon impact of your new ride after only about 150,000 miles--really the entire useful life of the vehicle. There are better ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Got my first ride in a hybrid (Camry) this morning, by the way. Eerily quiet at times, and not quite enough headroom for me, but otherwise a reasonably nice car. Since I'd ridden my bike to a men's prayer breakfast today, I also got to tell the owner that he was destroying the environment in his gas guzzler. :^)
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