1st "vote with your wallet" is not an illusion. The GPU and driver type will display in every statistic - for example on upcoming Steam stat.
Passive cooling is best thing you can do, because it reduces noise, vibrations, EMI and amount of dust pumped through the tower. Still, if one would go for passive cooling, its better to either watercool to huge passive radiator or use an all-Cu case and connect every component to it by means of heatpipes. For machines with lower energy drain, passive is definately better than fan cooling, if its working.
Also, AMD GPUs are much more energy efficient and with larger field of usage than that of Nvidia. Nvidias are strict gaming cards.
Electricity is cheap my ass, perhaps if you live in Bagamas. In EU the average cost is now 25 eurocent/kWh, three years before it was ~17 eurocent.