The New Green Stimulus: Buy Everyone a Prius
I wouldn’t normally flag a policy proposal by a car reviewer, but Dan Neil’s piece in The Los Angeles Times today deserves mention. With a few nifty calculations, he argues that we could cut our dependence on OPEC oil by 50 percent over ten years, simply by buying millions of hybrids and giving them away to American drivers.
Here’s his math: 2 million 2010 Toyota Priuses would cost $46 billion and, at 50 miles per gallon, would reduce gasoline consumption by 1.4 billion gallons a year. That’s equivalent to 17 days’ worth of OPEC oil (we use 83 million gallons a day). Continue giving out 2 million cars annually for ten years, and now we’ve eliminated the need for 170 days’ worth of OPEC crude each year.
Sure, it’s impossible for about a thousand reasons. But on a hypothetical level, it actually makes some sense. Neil writes:
Crazy? Really? I would like to hear of another plan that in 10 years and at a cost of $400 billion (probably high, since we’d be buying in such bulk) could achieve such bankable savings in foreign oil, trade and carbon.
Public transportation? Please. We could hire Las Vegas showgirls as conductors and people still wouldn’t take light rail. As for the objection that such a thought experiment constitutes wild, stark-staring collectivism, let’s offer a free Prius to a few hundred thousand Texans and see if they decline out of free-market principle.
But I have a feeling Detroit and its lobbyists might decline. Still, a few strong and well-placed incentives could help persuade Motor City to shift its resources to hybrids and American consumers to buy them. The impact, as Neil points out, could be huge.
Win a free Prius when you follow TWI on Twitter! Well, no. Not really — but it’s still worthwhile.