NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After 12 years without a car, I caved. I didn't have to buy a car, but it made sense. Since 1999 I never had a problem getting around by foot, bike and public transit in San Francisco, Irvine, Los Angeles and now, Santa Monica. In all four locations, local travel -- say within a 5-10 mile radius -- was easy. Outside of 10 miles I biked practically everything, even in the pouring rain. If I ever needed four wheels, I rented them. But, as airport travel and CNBC appearances become more frequent, the car-dominated landscape of Southern California necessitates car ownership. So, like some people buy a pack of gum, I went to Toyota ( TM) of Santa Monica (go see Luis Caldas. He's a no-hassle salesman!) and, in less than two hours, took ownership -- via Toyota Finance -- of a 2013 Toyota Prius. I knew I wanted a Prius. Why? Like I said in the video that accompanies this article, I got a Prius because it's a quiet car. I could have gone electric (like Dylan did at Newport), but that would have cost more and my plug-in situation isn't ideal. While I like the good gas mileage (I logged 58 MPG on a recent 15-mile highway/city commute), I am under no illusions that I am somehow saving the world by driving a hybrid. I just like the car. It's comfortable. It's the right price. If it ran on the sweat of young Chinese factory workers instead of a mix of gas and electricity, it wouldn't make a difference to me. A car is a car. You drive one and, from a social-environmental standpoint, quit fooling yourself, you're probably not making matters better. When Caldas told me the Prius was the best-selling car in California in 2012, I hesitated to believe him. But it checked out:
Whether at home or abroad, the fact remains that more and more of us are developing an environmental ethic around the idea that "consumption itself has environmental value if the energy using devices it depends upon are 'green.'" It's been deemed "the Prius Fallacy." According toBingo. As a guy who comes fresh off a decade of not liking cars much, I sure dig connecting my Apple ( AAPL) iPhone, via Bluetooth, to the Prius's entertainment system and rocking a crystal-clear stream of Pandora ( P) that I can actually hear because this beauty barely makes a sound. All the while, I'm probably getting better gas mileage than the cats next to me (wait, they're all driving Prii now!). But, I'm not that easily duped. That's why I rarely sign petitions, give money to political parties or take everything Rachel Maddow says as gospel. Shockingly, the academic research in this area is thick. I'll follow up this rant with the gist of what it has to say later in the month. Make my article history a daily habit, if you will. In the meantime, I can endorse the purchase of a Prius. Awesome car. Great experience at Toyota. Just don't get all pious as you cruise out of the lot in EV Mode. Follow @rocco_thestreet -- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
DavidOwen, the fallacy leads to "rebound creep," thereby resulting in the very opposite of what the technology was billed to accomplish in the first place: reduce energy usage. Rebound creep could happen with a Prius in any number of ways: you might use the money you've saved on gas to buy a ticket to the opera, located in another city; you might draw upon the virtue you've banked by purchasing a Prius to justify not riding your bike to Whole Foods when it rains; you might decide to drive to the gym during rush hour because Terry Gross is on, and your Prius is a quiet place to sit and be left alone. No matter the scenario, the end result is that the supposedly ameliorative form of consumption -- the hybrid -- leads not to greater efficiency, but to easier, more comfortable, and greater rates of energy usage.