My son would like for us to buy either a Hummer or a Prius. You'd think those two vehicles would appeal to people whose sensibilities were...

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My son would like for us to buy either a Hummer or a Prius.

You’d think those two vehicles would appeal to people whose sensibilities were at opposite ends of the political and social spectrum, but life is rarely that simple.

There are people who care about energy conservation and people who don’t, but there are probably more people who care about being cool.

Our son would like for his parents to drive anything cooler than what we drive now.

The other day he asked whether I’d had my midlife crisis yet, because he’d spotted a hot sports car I could buy if I could just get in midlife crisis mode.

Even people who buy energy-saving vehicles sometimes do it because they want to be with it. The Prius is hot, at least partly, because it is cool.

Green people have been dumping on SUVs since the first behemoths started crowding roadways, but a lot of those greens were daydreaming about roaring down the highway, jumping curbs, and just looking swell behind the wheel of their own SUV.

Just look at the Lexus RX 400h, the upscale hybrid SUV that debuted this spring. In its first three months, Toyota sold 9,486 and had orders for more.

I remember reading that one California dealership was swamped with early orders from environmentally conscious Hollywood stars, who wanted something big, fancy, powerful and green. Dustin Hoffman drove off with one of the first ones. Take that, Arnold.

All that time Hoffman was suffering SUV envy for his principles. You have to respect that in a person. After all, who is the most virtuous, a person who doesn’t drive an SUV who has no interest in one, or the person who wants one, but declines because she wants to conserve energy, reduce pollution and allow other drivers a clear view of the road?

It’s only sacrifice if you are giving up something you want.

It also turns out that a lot of hybrid buyers aren’t doing the environment much of a favor, anyway.

Automakers sometimes use hybrid technology to make their cars more powerful. There was a story this week that listed a bunch of hybrids that accelerate like race cars, save little or no fuel, but still earn their owners tax credits under the federal clean-fuels program

Buyers are reaping cache and cash, while giving up nothing. That’s like eating fried veggies. It doesn’t really count.

The saving-the-Earth news generally hasn’t been good lately. This month, a couple of researchers said we may be wasting time and money trying to replace fossil fuels with fuels made from corn and other crops.

They said producing biofuels, such as ethanol, requires more energy than it produces.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the farmers it subsidizes dispute the findings. They say the production of renewable fuels has made a lot of strides recently, and is in fact an efficient process now. It’s still pretty expensive though.

Why does it have to be so hard to get this transportation energy thing right?

Mass transit was supposed to be another solution, but around here, we just can’t seem to get it together.

There has been a big to-do about monorail financing, but even when the monorail gets going, it will be only a partial solution.

This week we’ve been trying to figure out a recurring summertime problem: how to get our son from camp to camp and back home.

We went over bus schedules, but there was just no way. There were too few routes and the ones there were didn’t go to the right places or at the necessary times. Busing works only if you happen to live in a few fortunate places and have a destination that is also near a line that connects with yours.

The one certainty is that oil will run out someday and we’d better have some solutions by then.

Fortunately, there are more than a couple of alternatives, one of which goes right to the source, the sun. Solar energy just might be the thing. I’ll have to keep an eye on the North American Solar Challenge, a race among solar vehicles, which began Sunday in Austin, Texas, and will finish next week in Calgary, Alberta.

Teams of university students make better cars every year, and some of them look pretty cool, too.

They’re not just tilting at windmills.

Jerry Large: 206-464-3346

or jlarge@seattletimes.com.