Despite the mounting evidence that more or less proves that current hybrids are less about energy efficiency and more about conspicuous consumerism, I have to admit I normally have a soft spot for hybrid cars. Not because I have any remaining delusions about their being good for the environment, or good for my wallet, but because… well, they’re nifty gadgets. That CVT is pretty damn cool, and the electric-gas motor linkage isn’t too shabby either. But this was all before I visited the Bay Area. Now the sight of a Prius fills me with a desire to go out and club some snooty hippies.

The Bay Area, being in California, sucks. One of the major ways it sucks is the serious traffic problems. If the highways and freeways are the arteries of the San Francisco Metropolitan Area, I’m surprised it hasn’t had a heart attack yet. You would think that California, being the home of supposed greenies and environmentally friendly folks, would have decent public transit, but no, you would be wrong. California has a huge car culture, the people out here love to drive (poorly), and can’t be asked to take a train or bus. This means all 7.2 million people are on the roads during rush hour, creating a problem of unimaginable proportions.

Much like the rest of the country, the Bay Area tries to alleviate the congestion using dedicated HOV lanes, and much like the rest of the country they allow hybrids to drive in these car pool lanes. The one big difference between the Bay Area and the rest of America is the level of conspicuous “green” consumption going on out here. All of the hippies, and their flower children have a Prius out here, and given the abnormal concentration of hippies, this means there are a lot of Prius’ on the road, and since these folks all want their “independence” it means all of these Prius’ are single occupancy vehicles. I guess it must make Gaia cry when you car pool, almost as much as when you shower.

Let’s get this straight people, your Prius is NOT a car pool. Those HOV lanes are there to reduce traffic, and since all of you nancy boys are driving single occupancy hybrids you’re not helping the problem in the slightest. Furthermore, you’re not helping the environment. Your Prius get’s a lousy 44 person miles per gallon [pmpg] (and that’s if we’re being generous), my Saturn SL1 get’s 32 pmpg if I drive it alone too (actual performance), but given that I regularly carpool my performance is much closer to 64-128 pmpg, and is a SULEV to boot. This means when I carpool, I do a hell of a lot more to reduce traffic, pollution, and gas consumption than you do. Not to mention the fact that, when I send my car off to die it won’t leave a lot of nasty reactive battery waste behind, just clean readily recyclable metals and plastic.

Please folks, think of the commute time, the environment, or just our plain good old energy dependence, and get your Prius out of the damn car pool lane. It’s for High Occupancy Vehicles, not Keeping Up with the Joneses.

-Angry Midwesterner

As gas prices hover somewhere between $3.65 and $4.50 (depending upon where you are and what you buy), and all manner of schemes, plans, and programs are discussed for reacting to that, there’s a simple question:

To Drill or Not to Drill?

There’s no question that America has substantial untapped oil reserves: in Alaska, off the shore, under the Great Plains. And new technologies may make recovering even more of this affordable, even at sub-$100/barrel prices. At $125/barrel and above, we’ve definitely got more oil we could be extracting.

But of course, that comes with a price: damage to the environment and treating the symptoms without addressing the disease. Like a junkie facing withdrawal who simply scores more of his chosen poison, we’d simply be feeding our addition, not dealing with it.

So, to drill or not to drill? That’s the question for you all.

Oh, that and the obvious follow-up: whether we drill or not, what else do we do? If you’re pro-drilling, you’ve still got to face that we’re just delaying things. If you’re anti-drilling, you’ve still got to face that spiraling fuel prices lead to poverty and even death for real live people.

So, either way, what do we do after deciding to drill, or not to drill?