Al Gore and his version of the environmentalist movement have little to do with the EPA. He likes to win over people in NGOs like Greenpeace and other more radical groups of that sort, and get average Americans to sympathize with their more extreme views.
I don't care much for the political parties, as both are two different ends on the spectrum of bad nowadays. The bottom line is that the environmentalist movement (not the EPA) was once noble, but has now degenerated into a business in of itself, and not the good kind either.
And no offense, but most people around where I live don't look too highly upon LA. Most people around here see it as the home of just movie stars and gangsters. So you could probably imagine why nobody will spend $30,000 for a new car to save that city.
The worst part is that the whole middle class cutting back thing isn't just going to be a temporary state of affairs. When you downsize or cut corners on something nowadays, it's permanent. This cycle is just going to continue on and on until the middle class is virtually extinct.
The old days of actually good and fair jobs, good wages, and comfortable living standards are finally gone forever. Now comes the Age of the Prole, which will also coincide with an eventual demise of our democratic system of government. That's going to be the 21st Century in a nutshell for you.
Recycling still involves melting, steel making and pollution up the stacks. And a shredding operation. I think everyone should see the inside of a battery plant. And paint and primers factories. And still a need for oil and gas refineries. And then you have tire disposal for the long distant daily econo commuters. They can't utilize mass transit or walk because the higher MPG justifies the distant job commute. Few people keep cars 15 plus years. Maybe to remain middle class it's inevitable in the future. Saying my ocean area town in Avalon NJ isn't really accurate either, as far as true pollution generated in the Northern part of the same state. I still see long commutes with any vehicle as a contributor to this issue. Green to me is walking or riding a bike.
V8 powered luxury cars aren't very practical; however, if you can afford them, then what does practicality matter?
And I'm glad you brought up that statement that most people with money are buying cheaper cars. It's a change that has had me very interested in observing. My hypothesis is that many people with money are slowly weening off of overpriced luxury vehicles due to their perceived pretentiousness. Driving around in a $130,000 Mercedes-Benz during the economic woes of this century will earn you more than just a few keyings and nasty looks.
Not to mention the crap load of money saved on maintenance by taking a lower end vehicle over a fancy luxury car.
Just for the record though, V8s were popular in luxury vehicles back then due to their immense, low revving power and smoothness. However, with low end torque being phased out in favor of higher revving V8 engines, there really is no incentive to keep them around in many cars. V6 engines are naturally higher revving and have to work harder to achieve the same output as a V8, but also remember that V8s aren't usually as efficient.
Somehow I don't exactly feel sorry for the status of the US middle class. All anyone has to do is take a look at approximately 90% of the rest of the world, to see that even the poorest in the US have it about 200% better than most anyone else in the world.
In fact, an interesting fact: In 1955 the average size of the American home was 700 square feet. The average family owned one car, one TV set, and one telephone. Many people dreamily and nostalgically cast the 50's era as when everything was peachy-keen and wonderful, when in fact if those who made these assumptions were to be dumped into that era with the aforementioned standards, they'd think they were poor. It's also interesting to note that the average level of measured contentedness was ironically also higher in 1955 than any other period. So that tells you it's not the "stuff" that makes people happy.
Fast-forward to the 2000's when the average family home had more than tripled to over 3,000 square feet, they also owned 2 and sometimes three cars, an average of 2 TVs, 2 PCs, and 3 or more telephones. So how exactly is it that things are so bad now compared to then when the average family now owns FOUR TIMES as much stuff as their supposedly "better-off" 1950's counterparts? Cry me a river.
On top of that, BIG cars do not = wealth and success. I for example make a 6-figure income. I could very easily go out and buy a very nice car with all the trimmings and be riding in style. Guess what? I own 2 old econo-cars, one that's now almost 20 years old. What you'll ironically find is that many of the country's wealthy aren't wealthy because they went out and blew 50, 60, 80k+ on a car, but rather because they didn't waste it on cars and trinkets.
Lastly, no offense taken about LA: I don't live there. I live in SF, which is totally different. As far as the environment and pollution, well that issue should not be a liberal or conservative thing. It's our planet and frankly I believe that clean air, water, and so on are something we all should like. As mentioned earlier, it's in the best interests of various industries to try and polarize people to believe that environmentalism is a bunch of hooey and some sort of liberal conspiracy. Just keep in mind who's actually whispering this in your ear.
I agree that cars like the Prius are a step in the right direction, however more needs to be done to reduce emissions.
Someone who is buying a Prius is more likely to be replacing their already fuel efficient small car with another, so not much difference.
On my daily commute I see mostly full size trucks, full size vans, and 1-5 ton trucks stuck in bumper to bumper traffic idling.
Sure, getting a few more MPG out of a smaller car is great, but what about these commercial trucks that are still getting poor MPG and polluting a lot? Even with some newer cars getting better MPG, I don't see much of a difference in the long run.
We need to expand mass transit and rail service like they did in Europe, if we really want to cut down on CO2 emissions.
I cannot speak about the Prius first hand, as I have never owned one, however many of my friends own Toyota Echos, and those are great.
Personally I would probably buy the new Hybrid Elantra from Hyundai or the hybrid Fusion from Ford, as they are both beautiful cars, proving that a hybrid does not need to be an ugly car.
As one commenter so aptly pointed out, having things does not make us happier. Rather than envying those who drive fabulously expensive luxury cars and live in 10,000 square foot homes, I tend to pity them. Those who have to bolster their ego and self-esteem by flaunting their wealth are hardly worth envying.
One of my most admired friends was a billionaire, whose name would be recognized almost anywhere in the world. He lived for many years in the same modest home and drove one moderately priced car. He did not have maids, butlers or a chauffeur. He rose from humble beginnings and made his vast fortune through very hard and honest work. He knew who he was and did not have to present an image by driving a Mercedes or living in a mansion with a dozen useless and empty rooms.
On the other hand, I know people (including family members) who feel driven to bolster their sagging self-esteem by buying things that they really can't afford in order to impress people they care nothing about. Such behavior is very obviously one of the main reasons we are less content than we were back in 1955, when we had so much less.
And I must disagree that most buyers of hybrids and smaller cars are simply trading other economical vehicles. There are a lot of Americans of means who are now realizing that saving our Earth and our vital resources is more important than flaunting their wealth. I know of many people who have traded in larger luxury cars for smaller, more economical vehicles. One of my best friends, who is a self-made millionaire, traded their full sized Cadillac sedan for a Ford Escape. They were tired of tight parking spaces and high gas prices, even though they could well afford it.