Thursday, May 22, 2008


As I read today about Honda’s new push to produce hybrid vehicles, it struck me that I am a hybrid reader and that we are all caught somewhere in hybrid-itis.

The traditional American auto industry and the raditional information media (formerly known as newspapers and television newscasts) are both on the wane and being transformed by new, energy-efficient technologies.

The American auto industry is in a death embrace of the internal combustion engine (and to oil companies — did someone say “auto/oil cabal”?). Detroit, which is joined at the hip to the likes of Exxon /Mobil and Chevron, is in its death throes.

Today Ford announced that it will not hit its target of profitability by 2009. Why are we not surprised? Unlike Honda and Toyota, Ford has merely dabbled in non-gasoline consuming technologies. Dearborn and General Motors still rely on dinosaur SUVs and pickups. Only good ole boys are buying.

It’s utter speculation but I’m convinced that the oil companies must give Detroit some kind of kickback to offset the massive losses the auto-makers seem committed to making—all in the name of gasoline consumption.

The news industry’s is loosening its tie to the printed and has been more nimble. It doesn’t seem to have suicidal links to Big Pulp, the paper industry. Still, as I’ve noted before, the news business's transition to the web isn’t going to be easy. It’s still unclear where revenue will come from to support quality journalism. Foundations? Readers?

But enough about them. What about us?

Take me, for example. I still drive a standard Toyota RAV4 (yes, there was once an leaseable all-electric version, vis. the film “Who killed the electric car?")

Partly because of the price of gas and partly because I’m on a walking jag (the 10,000 Steps Program), I find myself using the RAV less and less. I walk and take the bus whenever I can. Defying death, I also use my scooter, weather permitting. It gets 70 mpg. Filing its small tank costs $3.50 max.

My guess is that when Honda unveils its hybrid Fit next year, I may pop for one. I’ll probably have to give the RAV away, or pay someone to take it. It gets 23 mpg.

And I am, unlike most of my college students, a hybrid reader. I retrive two newsprint editions (The Oregonian and the New York Times) from my driveway each morning. I've taken to reading the New York Times both on-line and in print. The Oregonian’s web site, Oregon Live, still leaves a lot to be desired, so I get most of my local news in print. That is certain to change in the next year or so.

Change is what it is all about — and just in time.

The internet and hybrid automobile technology (with plug –in, all-electric cars to come in a year or two) will be necessities, if only because of their less polluting energy efficiency. And yes, all-electric energy in the post-Bush world (eight months and counting!) will come from non-polluting solar, sea and wind generation.

Thoughts of my being a hybrid reader lead to the fact that we are hybrid consumers. We have hybrid-itis.

It will pass.

Hybrid, as the name suggests, is a half-way, mixed status. It will last until we fully create and support a sustainable world.

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