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Don’t succumb to Freudian Prius envy

This city is going “green” in a big way. Hybrid vehicles sporting city logos are puttering all over town. At least two Laguna Beach City Council members, Mayor Toni Iseman and Councilwoman Jane Egly are proud Prius owners.

These cleaner-burning vehicles certainly help the air quality, and the more of them, the better.

Everybody wants to do the right thing for the environment, but not everybody can. Those who do attain a status that puts them into the do-gooder stratosphere alongside the likes of Al Gore. But there is a downside, that Freudian psychological scourge — Prius envy.

Pride inevitably goeth before a downfall and that’s already happening with the Prius. When Gore’s son was arrested on a drug charge earlier this year after being clocked going 100 mph in a Prius on Interstate 5 in Orange County, the snickers were heard ’round the world. The Prius is not, ahem, known for its super-charged performance.

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Of course, the spectacle of our nation’s “Mr. Green & Clean” having to answer for a son allegedly driving irresponsibly and ferrying drugs in an environmentally superior vehicle was also a hoot.

The Prius-speeding episode calls to mind Rodney King’s alleged 100 mph police pursuit in a Hyundai that preceded his videotaped beating and culminated in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, after police were acquitted in the case. Not only King, but Hyundai took a beating, as no one could quite believe four big men could go that fast in that car.

The Prius uses gasoline and battery power, but there’s a slew of new cars coming down the pike that are plug-ins. Drive them home and plug them into an electric socket overnight, and you’re ready to go for another day.

Already, these vehicles are making the Laguna scene. One of the electric-charged chariots was given away as a prize at South Coast Medical Center’s benefit gala a couple of weeks ago.

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Electricity may seem like a very clean energy source compared to gasoline, but if you’ve ever visited a large electricity generating plant, like one in Utah I saw that provides much of the power for the L.A. region, you know it is not clean to produce.

A lot has been done to clean up these plants, but because most of them still burn coal they not only contaminate the environment where they sit, but mining the coal that fuels them is itself environmentally damaging. Don’t even get me started on electricity generated by nuclear power.

Even those clean-burning buses fueled by natural gas have an environmental downside. The gas is extracted from coal mines or oil fields. You just can’t get away from the fact that most energy is inherently dirty.

In fact, there isn’t an energy source around as clean as the wind that powers a sailboat, so for all the strides we’ve made in environmentally-friendly transportation, we’re still way behind the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria that carried Columbus in 1492.

Surely someday someone will invent a wind-powered personal conveyance — sort of a street-legal sailboard.

Still, we’re proud — if only by proxy — that Laguna Beach city officials and some council members are gadding about town without leaving a big environmental footprint.

Heard on the street

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It’s a beautiful afternoon and two men are sitting congenially on Forest Avenue, drinking coffee. One is well-dressed and well-fed; the other, skinny, rumpled, dirty and wild-haired, appears to be homeless. They are engaged in friendly conversation; at first blush it appears the well-kept man must be extending help or words of wisdom to the homeless man, but no. Instead, it’s the homeless-appearing man who is offering counsel.

“You know,” he tells the retiree, “What you really ought to do is go back to your executive job.” The retired executive mumbles something vague in reply. Only in Laguna.



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