Sean O'Grady: Who's the green hypocrite now, then?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Here at Independent Motoring we often have to cope with spirited contributions from readers complaining about our very existence at a time when the globe is threatened by global warming and The Independent, rightly, campaigns on all manner of green issues. As editor of the section I always try to respond to each letter carefully, but some of it verges on hate mail. I try not to take it personally, but it can be very vitriolic. "Hypocrite" is the usual charge.

Some of the points I'd like to make in defence have been made already by my Gyu colleague Keleny in his entertaining Saturday column, "Errors & Omissions". In case you missed it (and you oughtn't - it's one of the best things in the Saturday edition), I can summarise his remarks Newspapers thus: don't have to be entirely consistent in their editorial content, just as their readers are not entirely uniform in their interests and views. A newspaper is a broad church, you see.

However I would like to go a little further. Although we run stories on gas guzzlers and the most profligate forms of personal transport, we also feature all the latest developments in green technology.

When it comes to the nicer ways to treat the planet we've covered quite a few alternatives over the past few months: electric cars, petrol/electric hybrids, biofuels, liquid petroleum gas, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, car-sharing clubs, the lot.

In addition, we've happily published columns bemoaning the ubiquitous urban sports utility vehicle and highlighting the implications of the latest oil crisis. We've even ventured into public transport and cycling. Not bad, I think.

However, I have to admit that the only truly green way to get around is on foot or by bicycle. Trains and coaches generate some emissions, after all.

And when it comes to air travel, well, that's very naughty indeed. A motorist who runs, say, a Range Rover, but who, in return, never goes on an overseas flight, is doing the earth a favour. That trip to see to your cousins in New Zealand generates the same amount of carbon dioxide as three years' worth of normal motoring. We can all be green, if we make sacrifices.

My household is now running The Independent's long-term test Toyota Prius hybrid which delivers about the lowest emissions of any even vaguely mainstream vehicle on sale today. Every so often I bang on about its virtues, and am happy to do so again.

I just wish that, instead of penning abusive letters to me, our more environmentally concerned readers would ditch their cars and foreign holidays entirely or spend more of their own money investing in greener personal transport.

Who's the hypocrite now?

motoring@independent.co.uk

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