As MSNBC.com’s chief eyes on the environment, it’d be easy for me to look back on 2004 and recall all the fighting between activists and the Bush administration. But I’m going to resist that and instead take the hybrid road.
It certainly was a breakthrough year for the gas-electric vehicles, which can double the mileage of their gas-only peers while slashing pollutants and carbon dioxide, the gas that many scientists fear is warming Earth as humans burn fossil fuel.
First Toyota came out with a larger, and even higher mileage Prius sedan, then Ford rolled out a hybrid Escape, the world’s first gas-electric SUV. And by year’s end, Honda was delivering a hybrid Accord with even more horsepower, and of course, higher mileage than its gas sibling.
Newsweek even profiled the higher horsepower of hybrids on its cover, and two more hybrid SUVs — a Lexus 400h and Toyota Highlander — are set for next year.
What hasn’t been highlighted is that hybrids are a win-win technology — welcomed by environmentalists and the Bush administration alike.
It’s a technology that could play a key role in possibly the most important, and divisive, environmental issue of our time: climate change.
President Bush refuses to order mandatory curbs in manmade emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat, saying it would be too costly to the economy. That stand has kept the United States outside the landmark Kyoto climate accord, which takes affect in February following Russia’s approval last October.
Bush has instead talked up technology solutions, from capturing and burying carbon dioxide, to a $1.2 billion plan for fuel cell vehicles that run on emission-free hydrogen.
But those have been criticized as long-term solutions by activists, who would love to see strong federal incentives for hybrid purchases. Bush in the past has proposed $4,000 tax credits, which would cover the cost difference over gasoline cars, but Congress has gone for smaller incentives.
Whether 2005 will see a stronger push is not clear, but the issue certainly begs the question: Can’t we all just get along? If we all drove hybrids, I suppose we would.