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SPRING 2007  · DECEMBER 2006 · JULY-AUG 2006 · APRIL--MAY 2006 · FEBRUARY 2006
Hacks · Culture of Values · Deconstructing Cultu · Niger Delta · Hybrids & Hydrogen · Dag Hammarskjöld  · Sensible Priorities · Corporate Crooks · OC & Government · Preserve... Post Off · Open Letter · Corruption

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The Truth about Hybrids and Hydrogen                   


by Joe Trento             



Home grown American automobile advertising is probably the most dishonest form of communication (if you don’t count the White House daily briefing.). Selling poorly designed cars that are marketed more to our libido’s than brains has not paid off for General Motors and Ford.


GM, the company that built my dad’s Pontiac and Oldsmobiles, has been mismanaged into junk bond status. Ford has got a family member at the helm again. The jury is out on if that is a good thing. Both companies are trying to catch up with the Japanese.

Both companies have seen much better economic times largely because the buyers they once enjoyed have disappeared generation by generation. What is worse is some foreign companies that once made great and well designed cars have begun to make poorer quality cars since they were taken over by the rock heads who run the big companies in Detroit.


A couple of years ago I had to buy a car. I approach this process with the joy of someone facing gum surgery. I used to feel guilty about buying foreign built cars. But when American companies won’t make a product that lasts or delivers decent gas mileage the guilt was something I got over. Also ALL car dealers, including the ones that sell the cool foreign cars, behave the same. At the end of the process you want to stand under a 120 degree shower and be sprayed with car salesman disinfectant. I didn’t even know polyester came in those colors.


My wife discovered that two Japanese companies were building gas-electric hybrid cars that I could drive in restricted interstate lanes without having any passengers in my car. To me this news was better than winning the lottery. I tried shared commuting. Let’s say I don’t have the personality for riding with lawyer/agents and leave it at that.

So after checking the fine print I ended up buying a Honda Civic hybrid. The buying experience was dreadful. The dealer took so long to get me the promised special fuel plates that I got pulled over by the State Troopers so often we were on a first name basis.


If it were not for a couple of instruments, an odd lack of engine noise at stoplights, and the magic power I have to drive in HOV lanes during rush hour without stopping for slugs, you would not know you are driving a different kind of car.


I commute a very long way every day so how much gas a car uses is of some importance to me. I also travel by interstate all but 20 miles of a 130 mile round trip. So the car I drive has to be able to hold its own to myriad of people with no driving manners or regard to safety. Did you know people read the paper at 70 miles an hour?


In a real sense my life depends on my car doing what it is supposed to do. After nearly 58,000 miles I can tell you that Hybrid technology – a combination of a 4 cylinder gasoline engine and an automatically recharged battery powering an electric motor – works brilliantly. I average 41.5 miles to the gallon. I would get more I am told if I did a lot of start and stop city driving.


The only problem I am facing is jealous commuters who don’t have Hybrids are trying to get the State Legislature in Virginia to take away my right to us the HOV lanes without at least one other passenger. Even if they did that I would buy another hybrid. It is one of the few things an average person can do that makes you feel like you are not making matters a lot worse.


Yes, there is some pleasure in watching the lunkhead who bought a Godzilla sized Ford Expedition as you fill your tank in the Shadow of his beast. The smirk on his face disappears into helplessness as he sees that food is probably out of the question if he is to pay for gas.


The guys in my parking garage call my Honda “the electric car.” Puny GM and powerhouse Toyota have joined together to research Hydrogen powered cars that use NASA style fuel cells. They say hybrids are just transitional technology. Anyone who has owned a mobile phone, computer or TV set knows all technology is transitional.


President Bush has said his energy plan is based on Hydrogen. Of course that means you don’t have to do much since it would be cheaper to run cars on truffle oil. Here is a real energy plan for Bill and Dick: Reward people who build and buy cars that get better gas mileage and urge more of us to embrace hybrid technology. Unlike hydrogen this actually works and makes a difference. Get people into enough of these cars and maybe you two can stop kissing so much Saudi royal behind, unless you just like it.




Copyright © 2003-2006 Public Education Center, Inc. All rights reserved.  This essay is herein republished with the author's consent.


Joe Trento has spent more than 35 years as an investigative journalist, working with both print and broadcast outlets and writing extensively on national security issues. Before joining the National Security News Service in 1991, Trento worked for CNN's  Special Assignment Unit, the Wilmington News Journal, and prominent journalist Jack Anderson. Trento has received six Pulitzer nominations and is the author of five books, the most recent of which is The Secret History of the CIA. He regularly publishes a blog at

Posted  December 08, 2006

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