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As a follow-up to the immensely popular Peak Oil post from earlier in the week, I offer this post from Instapundit on why getting rid of SUVs ain't gonna happen. I've said before in comments on other peoples' LJs that the main reason we have so many SUVs around these days is because the federal fuel economy standards killed the station wagon - minivans and SUVs, which were both defined as trucks, were both exempt from the MPG requirements, and once those began selling like hotcakes, the station wagon was doomed.

There's lots of interesting links in that post, pertaining to the reasons why there's no substitute for trucks out west or minivans/SUVs in the suburbs, and why a lot of folks in the Blue states just don't get it. Also, check this post (also via Instapundit) about hybrid cars and blogs, especially WRT the successful drive by Toyota EV owners to allow more lease-end purchases of the vehicles in question.

BTW, I don't really agree with the tag "zero-emissions" for electric cars. All you're doing is pushing the emissions back up the fuel chain to the electric company, and with only 20% of the national electric supply coming from nuclear reactors, the odds are pretty good that there's some coal, gas or oil getting burned so you can recharge your batteries.

UPDATE Lynn Kiesling points out that despite the recent surge in gas prices, on average gasoline represents a smaller share of the household budget than it did in the 1970s. My personal experience is that this is very true: when I was working for High's in the late 1970s, the average price of 90 octane at Sunoco was about a dollar, which was 20% of my hourly gross wage of $5. These days, it's about $2.50 for the same gas, and that's a little over 15% of what I make at the Evil Banking Neighbor. Add in that my Kia gets better MPG than my old Corolla hemi-head, and I'm way ahead of the game.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
chebutykin
Aug. 25th, 2005 05:59 pm (UTC)
I believe we're pretty much agreed on all points here, which must be a first when it comes to politics and the environment. *grin*

I'd love to see the city-driver SUV fad go away, and I suspect it will begin to do so, simply because of gas prices. I don't have a problem with rural folks owning the higher-powered trucks and SUVs, because hell, that's what they were made for in the first place. I agree that regulations and design are the first things that need to change, though, in order to make the USA's oil consumption drop (at least, on the transportation side).

Though I still get cranky over people who say, "I NEED an SUV for my KIDS!" Yes, the manufacturers of smaller cars should play better to your needs (in fact, they'd probably tap into a rich niche market right now if they did), but criminy, have some imagination. You can also walk, take the bus, ride bikes, carpool, write letters to the government and the auto makers to make wagons more viable, etc. Perhaps not as conventient, but they are still options. But that's a personal gripe of mine.

On zero-emissions:

Also totally agreed. If I remember my figures right, hydrogen fuel cells actually cause MORE emissions waste than internal combustion; the combustion just happens further up the line. (This is why I actually balked when Bush proposed the hydrogen fuel cell initiative.) Plus, fuel cells need platinum, which is rare enough without having auto manufacturers trying to make millions of fuel cell cars.

HOWEVER, there is something to be said about putting fuel cells into production so people could a) buy them, and their money could b) go into more R&D, which should result in c) more efficiency, better alloys, etc. Meanwhile, the draw for cleaner power will probably encourage the power companies to d) apply further R&D, and e) update their grids to cleaner power sources.

Thus, I am still quite enamored with the new fuel cell motorcycles, which should emerge into the consumer market next year. Given that The Asylum now runs mostly off wind power (thanks to Xcel Energy's Windsource), I'd feel little guilt about plugging that sucker into my home power draw. Granted, it currently still takes fossil fuels to build the bike, the fuel cells themselves, the wind turbines, and the electrolysis machine, but it's still a step in the right direction. I'd happily throw money at that.
wombat_socho
Aug. 25th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC)
Though I still get cranky over people who say, "I NEED an SUV for my KIDS!" Yes, the manufacturers of smaller cars should play better to your needs (in fact, they'd probably tap into a rich niche market right now if they did), but criminy, have some imagination. You can also walk, take the bus, ride bikes, carpool, write letters to the government and the auto makers to make wagons more viable, etc. Perhaps not as conventient, but they are still options. But that's a personal gripe of mine.

Even in the city, walking and busing with the kids is a lot more of a strain than you might think. BTDT, and I'll never do it again - in fact, I would recommend against anyone doing it, because it's a major pain in the ass. Of course, the worst thing about busing is that you have to plan your life around the bus schedules, and that's not always practical when you have children. I still remember doing grocery shopping without a car when I first got up here and what a pain it was. Sure, we could have just relied on the corner store - if we didn't mind paying full retail price on all our groceries, which being starving temps we couldn't realistically do. We had to shop Rainbow or die.

Smaller vehicles for families? I'm sorry, but there are limits as to how many people you can cram into a small car for any length of time. What with car seats being mandatory now, you can't really cram two adults and a couple of young 'uns into anything smaller than a Toyota Corolla/Ford Topaz/Chevy Nova, and it only gets worse as they get older, bigger and start lugging backpacks and/or sports gear around. There's a reason Lois and I refinanced the house when Melody started 6th grade - between the kids and the dog, we needed that damn Aerostar.
chebutykin
Aug. 25th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
Agreed on the grocery shopping thing, whether or not kids are in the picture. Hauling groceries for even one or two people is just not feasible in MN without a personal automobile... At least, it was before Simon Delivers. (Hallelujah!)

Yet I'm still fairly unsympathetic to families. This is probably more of a personal thing, but I do think that a) you made a choice to have kids, and kids just aren't convenient by definition, so suck it up; and b) I think it's socially irresponsible to have more than two children. (I am all for China's population control -- well, at least the rationale behind it.) But, like I said, that's just me.

Part of this may stem from the fact that my mom was 16 when she had me, so we were living in near poverty for much of my very early childhood. Owning a car at all wasn't an option for a long time, and we were just fine.

Anyway, the fact is (in my world, anyway), nobody NEEDS a car, SUV or not, family or not. I lived in the Canadian Arctic for a month without anything but my gear, my food, my feet, and a kayak. Chris has never owned a car, and has never learned how to drive. My single-mother mom lived without a car for a long time. If I sold my car tomorrow, no, I would not be able to get to work in 15 minutes without calling in favors or a cab. But I have a million ways to get there. And the truth is, if I had sell the Saturn, I'd adapt. If I had a kid, I'd adapt.

As you like to say, we're clever monkeys. *grin*

I suppose my definition of "need" is different. As humans, we actually need very little. Food, air, water, heat, and social interaction. Last time I looked, cars weren't on Maslow's pyramid. *grin*
wombat_socho
Aug. 25th, 2005 09:21 pm (UTC)
Last time I looked, cars weren't on Maslow's pyramid. *grin*

Well, by some definitions, they're right at the top, in the little pointy spot marked "Self-Actualization". You know, the one with the strobe lights, neon, and Art Deco styling*. In the meantime, they free up more time for leisure (or productive work) that we would have spent sitting around waiting for (or riding) buses.

*In my case, camo netting, cold Diet Cokes, and high-speed Wi-Fi. ^^
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