SUV backlash backlash
Debra J. Saunders
1/22/2003 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Of the many slurs flung my way in reader e-mails, the one that
really frosts me -- and can be printed in a family newspaper -- is "SUV
A low blow and untrue. I own a BMW convertible. It's a real car.
It embraces the road, it hugs the curves, it's got a stick.
The fact is, I hate SUVs. Well, not the little ones, but the
monster-mobiles that could house a Third World family and lurch dangerously
on the turns.
Why? They're a style-crime on wheels. They drive like buses. If
you're in a real car, like my dear Beamer, and surrounded by SUVs, you can't
see the other cars on the road. When they're parked, they block real-car
drivers' view of oncoming traffic.
I do find it ironic that baby boomers, who in the '70s used to
scoff at Lincoln Continentals that got 8 miles to the gallon, now own
boxier, taller versions of their fathers' gas-guzzling automobile.
Worse, so many SUV owners have no problem faulting President
Bush for refusing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty. That is the global-warming
pact that would have required the United States to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Last time I checked,
America produced 14 percent more of those gases than in 1990, and gasoline
consumption was a big contributor.
If SUV owners want to drive a gas-guzzler and yet insist global
warming is for real, the least they could do is take a hard look in the
rearview mirror. Maybe they would see that they are in no position to dish
Bush for being a skeptic of global warming. Not when they apparently believe
it is real, but they can drive whatever they want because only other people
should sacrifice to prevent global warming.
Enter the Detroit Project -- the brainchild of op-ed columnist
Arianna Huffington and her Hollywood buddies. This month, the Detroit
Project made news by airing clever TV spots that, taking a page from
anti-drug public service announcements, equated owning an SUV with aiding
Predictably, articles followed noting that TV producer and
Detroit Project signatory Norman Lear had built a 21-car garage. Fox News'
Neil Cavuto challenged Huffington for preaching energy efficiency while she
flies in private jets and lives in a big house that probably costs a small
fortune -- and plenty of fossil fuel -- to air condition.
Thus, the story moved from one of fuel-efficiency to hypocrisy.
It began as self-styled SUV foes demonstrating how superior they are by
telling other people not to drive SUVs. It ends with SUV owners feeling
superior because at least they're not hypocrites like the Detroit Project
In the end, the Detroit Project may be best known for starting a
new American pastime -- pointing out how other people waste oil. Everyone
gets to feel virtuous. The sedan owner is less profligate than the
Expedition driver. But the Expedition driver with four kids doesn't commute
on a private jet.
Play the game well enough and, like the Detroit Project
signatories, you'll convince yourself that only others drive gas-guzzlers.
It was that conceit that allowed the Detroit Project to preach that driving
an SUV funds terrorism, without scolding people who drive sedans for funding
the same thugs.
The serious point that is lost here is that Washington should
retool federal regulations so that SUVs have to meet the same
fuel-efficiency standard -- 27.5 miles to a gallon of gas -- as sedans. In
December, Bush boosted the fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs to 22.2 mpg by
2007 from 20.7 miles per gallon. That's a start.
And it makes more sense than driving an SUV with a "Stop Global
Warming" bumper sticker.