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General · 17th September 2009
Barry Saxifrage
Let’s start with a biggie. What car over its lifespan requires you to buy so much gasoline it would fill a 17-story high stack of barrels? That’s 10 tons of dirty fuel from Big Oil. It costs you $25,000 to fill up that stack at today’s European prices. Ouch. Driving this car also commits you to littering 32 TONS of garbage. That’s the weight of the eco toxic CO2 from burning all that gas. Those tons of litter take thousands of years before they stop harming our ecosystems. If that pollution were kept in the car it would crush you, the passengers, the car and even the roadway itself. It is equal to littering 3,000,000 plastic bags. That’s a lot of litter.

So, what car forces you to pay for and burn so much dirty, dangerous and ever more costly fuel? A Toyota Prius, our most efficient gas car.

A mid-size car like the Honda Accord demands you spend and burn more than twice as much. A Subaru Outback even more. It could easily cost you more than $50,000 in gas before the car wears out. Its gas stack is taller than the world’s tallest tree, and you will create 73 tons of global warming litter. It litters at the rate of one plastic bag worth of CO2 every second as you drive down the highway.

What about those popular “fuel-sipping” sub-compacts like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit? Buy one and you must also buy and burn 27-stories of gasoline drums. Standing a top this stack puts you eye-to-torch with the Statue of Liberty. When gas prices hit Europe levels here you’ll need to fork over $40,000 for this much gas. Buying one of these small cars includes a promise to dump 50 tons of CO2 trash straight into our already out-of-whack climate.

As the chart shows, the required stack of gasoline barrels you commit to pay for and burn rises painfully as you opt for more size and luxury.

There is nothing “mini” about a minivan’s 153 barrel demand. It requires you buy and burn energy equal to 26 people working full time for a decade. It is going to cost you tons for that luxury.

Pickups and SUVs? Triple Ouch. You’ll need to pay for and burn 34 tons of gas at whatever price Big Oil is selling it for. The 100+ tons of climate pollution trash you’ll litter along the way, equal to littering ten million plastic bags, will quickly get more painful both socially and in your pocketbook.

In fact, it takes many times more energy to push a car around than to build it. The price you need to pay to shove your car around can easily become much more than the cost of the car itself. And the eco-trashing litter from burning all this dirty fuel is hundreds of times greater than from the car itself when it is finally scrapped.

Be smart. Don’t get stuck with a car that demands you feed it a stack of barrels you can’t live with.

34.5 inches tall
55 gallons
Energy = 1.5 years of human toil
1000 pounds CO2
Creates litter = 50,000 plastic bags
Biofuel = 2 years of food
$80 in 1997
$220 in 2008
$430 today in Europe
Your cost in future?

chart version: 24 Sept 2009
FUEL ECONOMY: combined mpg from US EPA at
BIOFUEL: National Geographic June 09 “End of Plenty” p32.
HUMAN ENERGY PER BARREL: National Geographic
Special Report “Energy for Tomorrow” p92.
VEHICLE LIFESPAN: 160,000 miles.

Originally published in the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of the Watershed Sentinel
see Attachments below to download a full size version of the chart
see Attachments below to download a full size version of the chart