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Against SUVs

February 3, 2009

 

Let me say it upfront: I hate SUVs. I always have. I see them as emblematic of narcissistic individualism, the desire for material excess so prevalent in American culture. One reason I applauded high oil prices was the collapse in SUV sales, and I’m worried about a reversal in that trend. This post is inspired by an excellent book published in 2002, Keith Bradsher’s High and Mighty– The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way, clearly the best and most comprehensive book written on the SUV phenomenon. I recommend particularly a couple of excellent reviews that book, by Gregg Easterbrook in the New Republic and Stephanie Mencimer in the Washington Monthly.

Of course, the number one reason to oppose SUVs is their “gas-guzzling” tendencies, their relative energy inefficiency, their non-trivial contribution to global warming.  A little history here is instructive. When the CAFE standards were introduced in the 1970s, trucks were granted some laxity. As always, corporations try to seek loopholes, and they found one: they could classify SUVs as light trucks and sell them to customers who still yearned for the big unwieldy inefficient cars of yesteryear. Some actually claim that the CAFE standards led to the SUV phenomenon, whereas in the fact they represented a loophole that should have been closed. An effort was made to finally close this loophole in 2007, over much political opposition (from both parties). But much remains to be done.

Fuel efficiency standards in the United States lag the rest of the world dramatically, and successive political regimes simply turned a blind eye, especially to the (quite literal) elephant in the room– SUVs. As noted in a Pew report, the EU and Japan score well on fuel efficiency (around 45-50 mpg), with the US at the bottom of the pack (25 mpg), lagging even China (35 mpg).  The problem can really be traced to SUVs. In the 1990s, when the SUV boom really took off, the official average “fleet” standard (the average of all new models by each manufacturer) was 20.7 miles per gallon for SUVs and 27.5 miles per gallon for cars. And some of the worst offenders get only 10-12 miles per gallon. SUVs spew 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides in the air than passenger cars.

We need to make one point clear from Bradsher’s book: it’s not a problem of technology. It’s just that car manufacturers would rather focus on power and acceleration, making SUVs even more dangerous (more on that later).  When they complain, remember that these same car companies resisted every safety improvement from seat belts to airbags proposed over the years by consumer advocates like Ralph Nader.

This makes for a good segue into safety issues. For SUVs are dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. This is indeed the crux of Bradsher’s book. He notes that vehicles on truck frames tend to handle poorly, and the body and frame may separate in an accident, something that would not happen in an ordinary car (all that metal does not make you safer). And occupant deaths are higher in SUVs than cars. Also, the notion that front-wheel drive systems make SUVS safer is fallacious. Since practically no SUVs are actually driven off-road (despite the vapid commercials), all this adds is weight and lowered fuel economy. The main reason why SUVs are so dangerous is the rollover risk, arising from the high center of gravity, the overloaded tires, and truck-like steering. Rollover deaths are about 1000 a year. In 2004, after the book was written, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that SUV drivers were 11% more likely to die in an accident than people in cars. Many who buy SUVS think sitting high makes them safer, whereas it fact it magnifies the danger. This got so bad that members of Congress (from both parties) put pressure on the NHTSA not even to test for rollover risk, and the manufacturers refuse to list the safe load.

What’s even worse is the risk SUVs pose to other drivers and pedestrians. In an accident with a car, SUVs are likely to mount the car and crush the occupants. Bradsher believes SUVs cause about 2,000 deaths a year from accidents with ordinary cars. He also shows that, despite lower drunk driving incidence and the development of new safety features, the reduction in automobile deaths came to a standstill because of SUVs. Here’s a chilling fact: if a car hits another car in the side, the driver of the hit car is 6.6 times more likely to die than the hitting driver. If the hitter is an SUV, it rises to 30 to 1. Also, a pedestrian is twice as likely to die when hit by an SUV than a car.

If SUVs are so polluting, and so dangerous, why are they so popular? Well, one thing is the safety myth. But it’s  more than that. According to market research by the manufacturers, SUV drivers tend to be “insecure and vain…. self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities”. They also don’t care about anybody’s kids but their own, and are very concerned with their image. They are noted by their “willingness to endanger other motorists so as to achieve small improvements in their personal safety.” With the SUV, image is key. Marketed as outdoors vehicles, they rarely leave the confines of middle-class suburbs. Many models are engineered to look as threatening as possible– the manufacturers know their market!  One example quoted by Bradsher is the “grill guard” which has no purpose in an urban environment. The worst offender here, of course, is the Hummer, which takes every bad trait of the SUV and multiplies it by a factor of ten.

Allow me a short rant in conclusion. It’s no coincidence that road rage incidents tracked the SUV boom. SUVs take up 1.4 parking spots. If they are behind you, they will blind you with huge headlights. If they are on front of you, they will obscure your vision. Because they feel so high above the road, and so safe, they drive menacingly and cut people off at a whim. People have told me they felt compelled to buy an SUV because everyone else has one, and hence is the only way to stay safe in the metal jungle. Talk about an arms race!

In conclusion: yes, there are parts of the country where SUVs can serve a valid purpose. Except that most SUV drivers tend to live in the suburbs. The SUV craze really is an example of an aggressive American Calvinist individualism with a Hobbesian twist: everybody drives their own fortress; caring only about their own safety, utility, and comfort; oblivious to others and the environment. And it’s their God-given right, damn it!

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183 Comments
  1. February 3, 2009 12:37 pm

    I knew the Calvinists were behind SUVs!

  2. blackadderiv permalink
    February 3, 2009 12:47 pm

    Some actually claim that the CAFE standards led to the SUV phenomenon, whereas in the fact they represented a loophole that should have been closed.

    They claim this because it’s true. The rise of SUVs obviously wasn’t an intended effect of CAFE standards, but it was an effect.

  3. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 3, 2009 12:53 pm

    I have a large SUV – with a grill guard – and there have been or are now about 10 such vehicles among immediate family (suburbans and trucks) since the 80s. They are very useful for a wide variety of things in rural South Texas – hunting / fishing / travel with multiple passengers / cattle and watermelon “issues” / carrying stuff. I spend way too much time procrastinating from a half-finished dissertation now, but when I didn’t these vehicles served such functions very well. And even now that is true.

    Second, many of the people in my circles have been blessed with multiple children. SUVs are a huge help here – and if you don’t believe it, go to a place with a lot of kids.

    insecure and vain…. self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities”. They also don’t care about anybody’s kids but their own, and are very concerned with their image. They are noted by their “willingness to endanger other motorists so as to achieve small improvements in their personal safety.” With the SUV, image is key.

    How exactly would this be quantified?

    In terms of safety, the U.S. is fundamentally different than Europe with regard to transportation. We have lots of space – even now, at around 300 million. There are “tradeoffs” here in terms of fatality, just as in most things, morbid as that sounds. When I was in Rome, the traffic there was unreal. It was everywhere. I would maybe favor severe restrictions, ala Oxford or London. Differential pricing and so on. Now what are the fatality rates in Rome and througout Italy, land of the small and “smart car” and little space? My understanding is that it is a big concern. Any comparison would need to take a lot into account.

    I also hope – and think its possible, if you talk to the engineers around here – that we move toward electric sources of transport energy. Its way past time to tell the world’s cheap oil producers – “thanks, see you later.”

  4. February 3, 2009 1:03 pm

    I too think the SUV is a good choice for those who live or move in rural or alpine environments. Come the occasional blizzard, the SUV is capable of handling at least three feet of unpacked snow. However, I grant that it is a horrible vehicle for merely icy streets and roads.

    Is the SUV much worse or better off than, say, a pickup truck?

    And don’t more regulations on these vehicles increase the cost of living in rural areas?

  5. blackadderiv permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:07 pm

    Btw, MM’s statement that “car companies resisted every safety improvement from seat belts to airbags” is not accurate. The use of seat belts in cars was a market innovation.

  6. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:22 pm

    Here in San Francisco, the SUVs that are in demand are the Honda Element and RAV4 from Toyota. Both get pretty good mileage and are short enough to park in a normal parking spot.

    One fellow in our neighborhood has a Hummer, which is often the target of vandalism. Recently some wag stuck a sticker reading “Fueled by the Ashes of Iraqi Children” on it.

    But the worst drivers in the city are the folks who drive hybrids. I’ve nearly been run over dozens of times by Prius drivers blasting past stop signs and such. No idea why that is–inexperience? Laziness? I dunno. Pickup truck drivers follow for a close second in dangerous driving, I’m guessing because the size of the vehicle gives a false sense of security.

  7. j. edwards permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:23 pm

    K & J Jones–

    I will admit that I am “anti-SUV” as well (whatever that means) but I live in LOs Angeles where there is virtually no point in owning such a monster vehicle. I do see your point- that large vehicles have their place in rural and mountain settings, where there is rough terrain and the need to haul x,y, & z.

    While I cannot back it up with quantitative data, I want to scream “Yes!” at MM’s final few, passionate sentences. My wife and I grew up in California’s Bible Belt (I in the Inland Empire, she in ORange COunty) and have always commented on the strange connection between trophy wives in SUV’s and evangelical bumper stickers, with no sign at all of the great outdoors.

  8. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:26 pm

    I would also say that, at least out here, a large part of the reason people buy hybrids is because of the image it projects. The average person buying an SUV or minivan is probably getting it for the size/functionality. Of course, the person who buys an Escalade is probably going for image rather than function, but I think the market for luxury SUVs isn’t as high.

  9. February 3, 2009 1:43 pm

    Jonathan,

    Why does it not surprise me that you drive an SUV? !!! But please, lay aside the “family values” canard– having children does not give license to pay no heed to one’s neighbor or the planet. Families have been just fine before SUVs, and they will be again. Nearly all of my friends with kids refuse to drive these things, on principle. In short, you cannot put the false needs of your own childen against the common good (namely, other people’s children, both in the United States and in the wider world, both today and in the future).

  10. February 3, 2009 1:44 pm

    …many of the people in my circles have been blessed with multiple children. SUVs are a huge help here…

    This is a super point. I don’t see how you can hate SUV’s when every single day you see big Catholic families streaming out of them. Of course they don’t make SUV’s big enough for some of the Catholic families around here; but I’m just as inclined to see a large SUV or van as a testament to life and family as to ego. No doubt this varies a great deal with where one lives. (My personal day-to-day vehicle is a Ford Escape hybrid, fwiw).

  11. Driver permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:47 pm

    I love my SUV’s safety, seating capacity, sight lines, 4-wheel drive, storage space, and it actually isn’t horrible on gas.

    I can’t wait for my lease to end so I can get another one!

    What would Jesus drive?

    A Chevy Suburban to fit all the Apostles!

  12. blackadderiv permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:49 pm

    I’m not a big fan of SUVs either, though I suspect that the dislike is based more on aesthetic and cultural grounds than anything else. Growing up, our family had a series of VW Microbuses, which I still have warm feelings towards. My guess is, though, that in terms of fuel economy the old VW Vans are nothing to write home about.

  13. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:53 pm

    MM,

    It sounds like you don’t like large families. Is that true?

    If it is not true, can you lease explain what sort of transportation might be appropriate for the family of 8? Surely not taking 2 cars everywhere?

  14. Driver permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:56 pm

    It seems to me that if MM could rewrite the social order…

    The entire world would function like an amusement park line in which every person lets the person in back of them go in front of them.

    This would go on interminably, so that no one ever gets on the ride.

    Substitute “ride” with “clothing” or “food” and the result is that all are gracious and all are hungry and naked.

  15. February 3, 2009 1:57 pm

    Oddly enough: I find myself wanting to strongly object to MM’s rant, despite the fact that I personally do not like SUVs and would never drive one. On my own, I prefer driving a small fuel efficient car for obvious reasons (or even better a small, fun, semi-efficient car like a MINI) and for the whole family I think our van is a much better value than an SUV.

    What I don’t share is MM’s ravenous urge to make sure that no one else drives an SUV. I just can’t see that it’s something important enough to try using the blunt instrument of regulation to deal with. (Especially when it’s regulation that gave us the phenomenon in the first place.)

  16. February 3, 2009 2:07 pm

    But please, lay aside the “family values” canard– having children does not give license to pay no heed to one’s neighbor or the planet. Families have been just fine before SUVs, and they will be again. Nearly all of my friends with kids refuse to drive these things, on principle.

    Being an at times unpleasant individual, I’ve certainly been known to snicker unkindly at those who have their two designer children and immediately go out and buy a Ford Excursion — but honestly, by the time people have 5-6 kids they have very few options as to vehicle, unless they move up into the commercial size van — a vehicle with worse handling, equally bad mileage, and a fairly lousy safety record. One reason we see a lot of suburbans at parish events is that they comfortably hold seven passengers.

    And the reason why there don’t tend to be lower profile vehicles that seat large numbers any more (such as the station wagons most of our parents were carted around in back in the day) is: safety regulations.

    Personally, I’ve always thought it would be cool to have something like an extended VW golf with three doors on each side and three rows of seats — but most parents won’t want to risk their families lives in something like that. People who cater to my tastes would be unlikely to sell much.

  17. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:14 pm

    I drive a comercial size van. The milage is worse than the suv I used to drive. The most you can legally fit in the largest SUV is 9, so when we had our 8th the van was necessary.

    I’d still like to know how MM thinks I should get my kids to mass of sundays.

  18. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:17 pm

    Why does it not surprise me that you drive an SUV? !!!

    Why am I not surprised you seem to be itching for an “e-fight?” !!! Doesn’t it get tiresome?

    Here’s the disagreement: 1) these are excellent vehicles for families and anyone interested in outdoor type activities 2) their existence is waaaay down on the ladder of things that “give license to pay no heed to one’s neighbor or the planet”

    In short, you cannot put the false needs of your own childen against the common good (namely, other people’s children, both in the United States and in the wider world, both today and in the future).

    Sentences and sentiments like these are why Christian Lander is a comedic genius. If we must engage in stereotype, I’m happy to be grouped in with the huntin, fishin, biker, small businessman, oil roughneck (like my father), flag-wavin’, family-takin to Grand Canyon in an SUV folk.

    Where you see “Calvinist!” – “selfish!” – “individualist!” , in other words, I see an opposite – preening status posturing, and neither one have much at all to do with Catholicism.

    A small bit of irony is that we both likely have similar views on the atomizing impact of neoliberalism. I agree with much of Phillip Blond, in other words. Yet it is distasteful and I think a bit pathetic to take a personal dislike and accuse others of unconcern for the “common good.”

  19. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:41 pm

    I drive a comercial size van. The milage is worse than the suv I used to drive. The most you can legally fit in the largest SUV is 9, so when we had our 8th the van was necessary.

    The homeschool van, as I call it. We see a lot of them at the parish we attend. When you consider how many people it’s transporting, the use of fuel per person is probably fairly efficient.

  20. February 3, 2009 2:44 pm

    Ben,

    How did large families get to Mass in the era before SUVs? Is this another example of the American materialistic determinism, so aptly described by Fr. Robert Barron in the following manner: “to have more and more, to be richer and richer, to guarantee our security through ‘things’ is, I would submit, a sort of American original sin…” I would add “bigger and bigger” from McMansions to vehicles…

  21. Bill H permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:48 pm

    Ultimately, I don’t care that much about SUV-owners vs. Prius-owners shouting matches, as both sides want to make claims of virtue based on the cars that they buy.

    Of course, from a purely environmental standpoint, the miles-per-gallon that your car gets is only mediately important insofar as it affects the actual amount gallons that you consume. A Prius owner who drives three times as much as an SUV owner probably does more damage to the environment with his car. My preferred public policy would be to scrap CAFE standards altogether (as they approach the problem indirectly at best) and raise gasoline taxes so that the costs of gas consumption are more directly internalized.

  22. February 3, 2009 2:50 pm

    Jonathan,

    I find it highly ironic that you accuse others of “preening status posturing” while at the same time bragging about the virtues of a large SUV with a “grill guard”. You are a single male, without kids, are you not? And did you even read the SUV marketing analysis I reproduced from Bradsher’s book?

    I also find it interesting when you talk about having “lots of space” (to run around in monstrous behemoths) while standing vehemently against sharing that space with our neighbors south of your Texas border.

    Ironic how the shoe fits.

  23. Driver permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:53 pm

    MM,

    Before SUVs, families got to Mass driving less safe, less capable cars/vans.

    Or they took mass (no pun intended) transit- which is not viable in our current suburban landscape or is widely deficient in our urban areas.

    Unless you live around the block and in suitable weather, walking to Mass is not an option either.

  24. February 3, 2009 2:54 pm

    But please, lay aside the “family values” canard– having children does not give license to pay no heed to one’s neighbor or the planet. Families have been just fine before SUVs, and they will be again. Nearly all of my friends with kids refuse to drive these things, on principle. In short, you cannot put the false needs of your own childen against the common good (namely, other people’s children, both in the United States and in the wider world, both today and in the future).

    Yes yes yes.

    I too think the SUV is a good choice for those who live or move in rural or alpine environments.

    Most rural people in West Virginia don’t drive SUV’s.

    Growing up, our family had a series of VW Microbuses, which I still have warm feelings towards. My guess is, though, that in terms of fuel economy the old VW Vans are nothing to write home about.

    We had an ’86 VW camper. I remember it essentially being the same as a VW car in terms of its engine, handling, etc.

    Yet it is distasteful and I think a bit pathetic to take a personal dislike and accuse others of unconcern for the “common good.”

    You have not addressed MM’s point about the common good, though, have you? How does the common good factor into your vehicular tastes? Does it?

  25. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:57 pm

    I suppose they walked in the old days.

    But thanks to circumstances out of my control, Archbishop Casey, the ordinary of Denver from 1969-1982, decided that the earlier archbishop’s plan for the diocese that every catholic family be withing walking distance of a parish and a school was abandonded as outdated. Abp. Casey wanted everything to be updated in the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Our diocese has undergone 40 years of planning to build commuter parishes.

    So again I ask you, how am I supposed to get my kids to mass.

    This is not a social planning question. You keep wanting to talk about generalities. I want you to talk about specifics. I am one person with a fmaily and I have the obligation under canon law to get my kids to mass.

    How should I do it?

  26. February 3, 2009 2:57 pm

    Unless you live around the block and in suitable weather, walking to Mass is not an option either.

    This “how will I get my family to Mass without my SUV” crap is a very north american middle-class viewpoint. Solidarity?

  27. February 3, 2009 2:58 pm

    So far, the defenders of SUVs are using two arguments: (i) large families; (ii) the right to be a Texan. What about the two issues in the post, namely, (i) the fact that the US lags the developed world in emissions standards; and (ii) the fact that SUVs are terribly unsafe, especially to those not inside the SUV?

  28. February 3, 2009 2:58 pm

    I am one person with a fmaily and I have the obligation under canon law to get my kids to mass.

    Don’t blame canon law for your vehicular tastes.

  29. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:58 pm

    MM, I’m just gonna guess you don’t run in circles that include Catholics with large families (as in 8+ children). Otherwise you’d realize how silly the charge of materialism is.

  30. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:59 pm

    Oh, one more thing.

    The old VW bus and the station wagon are illegal solutions. We have carseat and seatbelt laws. All children need their own seats, lest the state decide you are an unfit parent.

  31. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:00 pm

    This “how will I get my family to Mass without my SUV” crap is a very north american middle-class viewpoint.

    sez the guy with one kid. Give it time.

  32. j. edwards permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:00 pm

    “Before SUVs, families got to Mass driving less safe, less capable cars/vans.” –Driver

    I dont suppose you would want to back this claim up with some facts on the increasing safety of our automobiles and highways? I think you would be surprised at the numbers.

    I think you should read today’s earlier posting on The Crisis 1/2 and consider your messianic technology a bit more.

  33. February 3, 2009 3:02 pm

    sez the guy with one kid. Give it time.

    “Give the SUV time, man.” No way. No SUVs in our family. Ever. That’s a guarantee.

  34. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:02 pm

    Anarchist,

    I’m not blaming canon law for my vehicular tastes. I bought the ceapest van I could find that met the minimum requirements. I didn’t care if it was a Ford of a Dodge.

    Are you suggesting that I don’t need to take seriously the obligation to take my kids to mass?

  35. February 3, 2009 3:03 pm

    Ben – I have a name, pal.

  36. February 3, 2009 3:04 pm

    JohnH: the people who buy SUVs are not generally large families. That’s more of a minivan demographic, no?

  37. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:08 pm

    MM, I was assuming that in your generalization of large vehicles you were lumping all bigger vehicles together, as in nobody should be driving SUVS, vans, minivans, or other cars with low mileage. That’s what it seems. If not, I stand corrected.

  38. jonathanjones02 permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:09 pm

    I find it highly ironic that you accuse others of “preening status posturing” while at the same time bragging about the virtues of a large SUV with a “grill guard”.

    I’m not the one claiming that my own personal preferences, or the actions / preferences of others, are selfish, harmful to the common good, Calvinistic, individualistic, ect

    You are a single male, without kids, are you not?

    If you really want to know I’m happy to tell, but its irrelevant to the point about families and various activities.

    And did you even read the SUV marketing analysis I reproduced from Bradsher’s book?

    Not beyond the post.

    I also find it interesting when you talk about having “lots of space” (to run around in monstrous behemoths) while standing vehemently against sharing that space with our neighbors south of your Texas border.

    Yes, irony everywhere, and particularly for those who claim to be concerned with the squeeze on those in the middle and lower economic classes without the education, skills, cognitive abilities, opportunities, ect of desk-bound folk like you and me with the luxary to argue over the Internet. Or for those who don’t live near the near war zones that is much of the border.

    Ironic how the shoe fits.

    Agreed.

  39. S.B. permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:10 pm

    No one seems to be able to answer a simple question from Ben . . . . interesting.

  40. blackadderiv permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:18 pm

    I’m just gonna guess you don’t run in circles that include Catholics with large families (as in 8+ children).

    What percentage of people with SUVs have 8+ kids?

    Heck, what percentage of people with SUVs have 3+ kids?

  41. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:18 pm

    Michael,

    I apologize. You are right.

    Sometimes I get upset when I’m accused of being materialistic, since it is a great difficulty for me to provide for a spouse and 8 children on one income.

    nontheless, I was out of line.

  42. JohnH permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:21 pm

    What percentage of people with SUVs have 8+ kids?

    Flip that around, and lump in van/minivan with SUV and you’ll see what I was getting at.

  43. February 3, 2009 3:37 pm

    MM:

    I won’t talk about other states, but SUV’s in Louisiana are very helpful. The water level makes street flooding common, necessitating a higher up vehicle to tread through the water.

    Additionally, the evacuations require a large vehicle in order to carry all the people and gear-which can include food and clothes for about a week, a well as treasured items like photographs, etc.

    SUVs are not all people with poor self-esteem on a reckless trip that endangers the planet. They do serve a good, even if they leave much to be improved.

  44. blackadderiv permalink
    February 3, 2009 3:39 pm

    What about the two issues in the post, namely, (i) the fact that the US lags the developed world in emissions standards; and (ii) the fact that SUVs are terribly unsafe, especially to those not inside the SUV?

    I guess I don’t see either of these as particularly weighty concerns. If every American with an SUV traded it in for a hybrid, would this stop global warming, or even slow it down appreciably. And in terms of safety, U.S. auto deaths per 10,000 motor vehicles are not much worse than other European countries (France actually has a higher rate). Calculate the statistics based on miles driven rather than vehicles owned, and I’m guessing the U.S. would come out looking even better. So the safety disadvantages of an SUV, even if real, are liable to be fairly marginal and could in many circumstances be outweighed by other concerns.

  45. February 3, 2009 3:39 pm

    MM: “But please, lay aside the “family values” canard– having children does not give license to pay no heed to one’s neighbor or the planet.”

    Some people use SUVs to transport around their to-recycle materials and food boxes for the poor.

    Again, don’t many of the criticisms of SUVs also apply to very useful large pickup trucks and such?

  46. I read something interesting... permalink
    February 3, 2009 4:06 pm

    “…judge not lest ye be judged…”

  47. Robert M permalink
    February 3, 2009 4:57 pm

    You know, MM, your arguments (and those of people like Bradsher) would be a lot more effective if presented without all the invective, sneering and smug superiority. How am I supposed to take seriously Mencimer’s “excellent review” when the opening sentence is “Have you ever wondered why sport utility vehicle drivers seem like such a******s?” I sure this is going to be an objective and serious review, huh. (Moreover, this is your standard for what constitutes an ‘excellent’ review? Or would your definition of ‘excellent’ = “one that agrees with my view and belittles the obviously ignorant masses who do not”?)

    Polemics and emotion are no more attractive on your side of the issue than they are on the ‘gotta get my 8 kids to Mass’ side (an equally spurious argument).

    The issue may be a serious one, but personally I don’t think it is, and I certainly don’t think your making the case for its seriousness here. And the tendency to lashout out those who refuse to see how important!!!! this is by insulting, denigrating or belittling them tells us a lot more about you than it does about ‘them’.
    I agree with you on a lot of issues in principle (SUV hate, however, not being one of them), but your tone is so unbearable it makes it hard to acknowledge.

    Finally, I have not read the book but have read several excerpts and reviews (some much more ‘excellent’, or at least more professional, than Ms. Mencimers). It would seem to me that there is merit to Bradsher’s conclusions, but there is also a lot of hyperbole and some pretty huge assumptions, not to mention a lot of inchoate rage barely smothered in condescending rhetoric. Contrary to what you seem to think, these weaken, rather than strengthen, both his argument and its appeal to a broader audience. If you’re going to start telling people what they can and can’t drive, you ought to find a way to do it without substituting name calling for rational argument.
    RM

  48. February 3, 2009 5:19 pm

    I like Robert M’s point.

    Let’s be honest, those of us who like to disagree with everything MM says and who are particularly offended by his sneering attitude towards those who are not liberal urban elites (or designated victim groups): Most people who buy SUVs don’t need the room or the high clearance or the cargo capacity that much. Most SUV drivers don’t have 5 or more kids, and come to that most SUVs don’t actually seat more than a minivan — though the Suburban is rather useful in that regard. To a great extent it’s often a vanity play.

    But then lots of things in life are vanities to one extent or another. And that’s really where I think MM goes off the rails a bit. For all the ranting, it’s not clear to me what he cites that SUVs are really that much more destructive in the end than a host of other material vanities which are far more acceptable among urban elites. And the scolding simply gets a bit old.

  49. February 3, 2009 5:27 pm

    You know, MM, your arguments (and those of people like Bradsher) would be a lot more effective if presented without all the invective, sneering and smug superiority.

    Yep.

    There are plenty of legitimately negative things to be said about SUVs. (Heck, substitute just about any modern material good in for “SUVs” and the proposition still works, but SUVs are definitely symbolic of modern material excess).

    I remember a comedian commenting on a drop in Hummer sales by saying “I guess the world is just starting to run out of a**ho***”. Gotta love it.

    But what interests me is the hostility toward large Catholic families which seems to be on concomitant display with hostility toward SUVs. I’d take the anti-SUV rant more seriously if there were supportive comments about large Catholic families, acknowledgment that in the case of large Catholic families the purchase of one of these vehicles is perfectly reasonable, etc. As a hybrid driver who could easily afford to buy and drive any production car on the planet, I’m willing to believe that 95% of SUV purchases are unjustified, wasteful, and motivated more by fashion and ego than actual utility.

    But in the interest of making a categorical condemnation of SUVs, MM and especially Iafrate seem willing to throw large Catholic families under a bus. That in turn tells me that their opposition is irrational ideological raving, and that citation of, you know, facts and stuff, is serving a polemical purpose here.

    IOW, you might as well put up a sign that says “there may be good faith arguments against the SUV, but you won’t find them here”.

  50. Phillip permalink
    February 3, 2009 5:33 pm

    I drive a pick-up. Hate those little cars that think they’re Speed Racer. The only little car I even liked was the one that was tailgating me. It was fun to watch it in my rear view mirror bounce off my bumper when I needed to stop. No damage to the truck. At least 2k in damages for the car.

  51. February 3, 2009 5:36 pm

    MM and especially Iafrate seem willing to throw large Catholic families under a bus.

    That’s patently false. Saying that large families can find other methods of transportation (and have in the past and will in the future) without resorting to dangerous gas-guzzlers is not throwing them under the (mini)bus. In fact, most do already– large families is not the SUV demographic. If we want to support families through public policy (and I think we should), creating SUV loopholes from emissions standards is not the way to do it. How about child tax credits, subsidized childcare, more liberal leave policy, shorter working hours etc etc.

  52. February 3, 2009 5:47 pm

    Saying that [all?] large families can [without significant additional hardship?] find other methods of transportation (and have in the past and will in the future [in modern suburban conditions?]) without resorting to [SUVs and commercial vans] is not throwing them under the (mini)bus.

    OK, then it is just plain false. So you are saying just plain false things to pump up your ‘urbane’ sneering ideological rant.

    If you don’t hold large Catholic families in contempt, you might want to think about why your rhetoric leaves people with the distinct impression that you do. And if you do, well, then obviously you should work to change that.

  53. Liturgical-Dancer permalink
    February 3, 2009 5:50 pm

    I think it really comes down to how big your carbon footprint is…

    I mean, can I drive an SUV in good conscious, if I promise to do the following?

    1. Compost my garbage
    2. Bathe only once a week
    3. Use natural deoderants like baking soda
    4. Go totally Vegan
    5. Not use my air conditioning or forced gas heat
    6. Buy a “Snuggie”
    7. Promise to exhale less frequently

    P.S. I have it on good authority that Michael I. secretly drives an Escalade with 22 inch rims! :)

  54. j. edwards permalink
    February 3, 2009 5:53 pm

    Have mercy on a non-catholic for asking, you can gimme the boot if you like…

    Do catholics even talk about birth control?
    Is it ridiculous to ask?

    I appreciate Ben not wanting to “apologize” for having a large family. He should not have to. And it makes sense that he would need a large vehicle to transport his crew. I hate SUV’s but I worked in a group home and had to drive one.

    But what if I were a catholic, I have considere it, and did not want to have children? What if my wife and I wanted to adopt or open our home to those in need? Is there room for that sort of vocation or family? Would we have to stop having sex?

    I’m not clear on this.

  55. February 3, 2009 5:55 pm

    Zippy, I was still editing my post when you responded.

    As for the tone of my rheteoric, I admitted up front that I (as a pedestrian first and driver second) hate SUVs. Sorry, my friend, but that’s going to affect the tone! But I think my two main arguments (carbon emissions and safety) are valid fact–based ones.

  56. S.B. permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:02 pm

    How about child tax credits, subsidized childcare, more liberal leave policy, shorter working hours etc etc.

    None of which address the need of the fellow above, who has 8 children, and who still hasn’t gotten a specific answer as to how he’s supposed to get from point A to point B. (Also, he mentioned that he’s in a one-income family, which means that government-subsidized childcare would merely take more of his money so as to subsidize two-earner families.)

  57. February 3, 2009 6:10 pm

    S.B.-

    The answer is, no doubt, that Catholics should live close enough to their parish so as to avoid driving an evil SUV. And if you cannot afford to do that (for whatever reason), then some family members will just have to stay home for the “common good.”

    On a related matter, can anyone direct me to one of MM’s past posts that showed this much passion on this issue of abortion?

  58. S.B. permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:15 pm

    By the way, I dislike SUVs too, and share in the assumption that they’re not necessary for probably 90% of users. But let’s not throw the baby (literally!) out with the bathwater here. You’ve got a guy above who really is faced with the dilemma of not being able to drive any other car that would carry his kids. You really can’t bring yourself to say, “Gee, I guess it’s OK for you to drive a larger car”?!

  59. February 3, 2009 6:18 pm

    …as a pedestrian first and driver second…

    OK. I guess that might explain some of your attitude: you live and work in conditions where 99% of Americans do not and can not live and work, in conditions the very existence of which are utterly dependent on those who are not like you. And you obviously need to see more of the world in order to have more empathy with the struggles of those who are not like you.

  60. February 3, 2009 6:21 pm

    On a related matter, can anyone direct me to one of MM’s past posts that showed this much passion on this issue of abortion?

    See here.

  61. February 3, 2009 6:29 pm

    I’d take you guys more seriously if you did not turn everything into an argument about abortion.

  62. February 3, 2009 6:33 pm

    I’d take you guys more seriously if you did not turn everything into an argument about abortion.

    It is just that “whiff of hypocrisy” thing. I’m starting to warm up to it.

  63. February 3, 2009 6:36 pm

    I support eliminating the SUV loophole from CAFE and raising emissions standards to EU levels over the same timeframe. I also support raising gas taxes dramatically, and using the money to invest in public transportation. As for demographic patterns, most Americans live in suburbs near urban conglomerations, not in rural or semi-rural areas. The absence of decent public transport systems is a matter of public choice, not a necessary outcome. We need to reverse the major planning mistakes of the postwar period when suburban communites were built without sidewalks, for God’s sake, let alone any meaningful public transportation system. It won’t be cheap, it won’t be easy, and it won’t be painless, but it is necessary.

  64. February 3, 2009 6:38 pm

    You really can’t bring yourself to say, “Gee, I guess it’s OK for you to drive a larger car”?!

    The issue is not about large cars, or even vans. I’m referring to SUVs and their particular attraction (which is not for carting around 8 kids).

  65. February 3, 2009 6:41 pm

    On a related matter, can anyone direct me to one of MM’s past posts that showed this much passion on this issue of abortion?
     
    I can, but I should first offer a warning to our more sensitive readers. For the rest of you, do put on some sunglasses and gaze upon the white-hot passion so clearly evident in, say, this post here.
     
    It’s as if the words leap off the screen and grab you by the throat, no?

  66. Phillip permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:44 pm

    Wow, that is powerful!

  67. j. edwards permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:46 pm

    thank you zippy, HA, and phillip for taking us away from any chance of a conversation at all.

  68. Phillip permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:50 pm

    No problem. In that vein I also suggest Obama form a commission to look into CAFE and set emissions like the EU has. Who will he make chairman? Oh, Daschle is available. ;)

  69. February 3, 2009 6:53 pm

    First of all, SUVs aren’t created equal. MM is basically painting them all as Hummers. Do you consider my Honda Pilot a “fortress” ? Not to mention, there is no need whatsoever to “defend” owning any particular car.

    The Pilot got almost 24 mpg this weekend (I-5), that’s very good. The next one will be a hybrid or whatever similar out then. One sedan, one SUV, that’s ideal for a couple. (We live fairly rural – takes me 45 min to San Francisco during regular hours) – and I carted my family around the Pac NW in it for a week. If you don’t spend most of your time in a city, a regular-sized SUV or crossover is awesome to have, esp. when you have hobbies like kayaking or cycling. Heck, I can sleep in the Pilot on a mattress. I drive to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and all over the California and the Pac NW. It’s the perfect car. I’m shooting a wedding in Tahoe this weekend. Good luck getting there in a Smartcar in February :D

    MM needs to focus his loathing better. I’d say the Navigator, Hummer and Escalade are fortresses. I also think they are rather garish and gauche. The Suburban is also huge. I find SUVs that are pimped for city use silly (e.g. spinning hubcaps). Whether something is “necessary” for someone to have is frankly none of your business. Nor is it “immoral” to drive a car that’s 1% bigger than absolutely necessary.

    If anything, it’s exactly this kind of attitude that is Puritan, no ? Your popes didn’t build churches under that motto :P MM would have ragged on Michelangelo for using too much marble and paint.

  70. February 3, 2009 6:59 pm

    Interesting. HA and Phillip clearly mock a direct reference to the language in Lumen Gentium ch. 25. As for these guys (SB and Zippy too) deflecting the conversation, I’m well used to that by now.

  71. Elise B. permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:16 pm

    Does MM make an exception for Obama’s SUV? He probably needed it for his large family in rural Chicago.

  72. alex martin permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:20 pm

    MM– He hates SUVs more than funding abortions oversees…

    You keep throwing around the term “dangerous gas guzzlers” and expect people to buy into it. Would it be great if they got better gas mileage? Sure. But I fail to see how it’s dangerous that they don’t.

  73. ben permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:29 pm

    When I drive the family to mass in the big red van, which I affectionately call “the scarlet letter” because of the scandaized reactions it generates when people realize that I drive it around full of my own children, I get over 100 passenger miles per gallon. This is double what my mother gets when she drives her prius across town by herself.

    Pehaps MM and Michael believe I should get a subsidy from their proposed increased gas tax for providing mass transit on my private initiative? Would they at least be in favor of paying my wife their proposed child care subsidy? I can assure you she works very hard every day and provides high quality care.

  74. S.B. permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:32 pm

    I’m not “deflecting the conversation” . . . I’m asking you (and have done so multiple times) to actually have a conversation with a commenter who doesn’t agree with you 100% and who has pointed out that he has no other way to transport his 8 children.

    A “conversation” requires give-and-take, where you take other people’s points of view into consideration, rather than just pounding on your simplistic point no matter what anyone else says without ever acknowledging any complexity or nuance.

  75. Redneck permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:48 pm

    I have to have my SUV. How else am I going to go to the gun range? My assault weapons are heavy.

  76. February 3, 2009 7:51 pm

    Tim, you make me proud to be a Teuton.

  77. alex martin permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:51 pm

    How in the world do YOU know why someone is attracted to a particular vehicle?

  78. TeutonicTim permalink
    February 3, 2009 7:57 pm

    Tim, you make me proud to be a Teuton.

    Glad I could help! Teutons unite!

  79. alex martin permalink
    February 3, 2009 8:08 pm

    LOL!

  80. Haywood permalink
    February 3, 2009 8:10 pm

    Let me say it upfront: I hate blogs. I always have. I see them as emblematic of narcissistic individualism, exhibitionism, the desire for every jackass in Western culture to express his dumbass ideas and try to have them forced on other people.

  81. Kevin permalink
    February 3, 2009 8:12 pm

    “I see them as emblematic of narcissistic individualism”

    Funny, that’s how I see bloggers that feel the need to bash people based on what they drive/wear/eat/think.

    BTW:
    My carbon footprint has lugged soles!

  82. February 3, 2009 9:52 pm

    MM:

    You should have stopped at talking about the environmental and safety dangers of SUVs.

    However, your blanket attack on their personalities has brought out the worst, as seen by most of the comments that precede me.

    I still would like to know about whether you think there are any good reasons for owning an SUV, . such as the ones held by many people in Louisiana

  83. Policraticus permalink
    February 3, 2009 10:33 pm

    I get over 100 passenger miles per gallon. This is double what my mother gets when she drives her prius across town by herself.

    This is only a semi-decent point if each passenger, for each consumed gallon, would have otherwise driven the same vehicle the same distance at the same rate of consumption. Amazingly, this point impressed someone here.

    My wife and I own two small SUV’s–a RAV-4 and a CR-V. We bought them because they get better mileage than many sedans, and about the same as some small cars. Additionally, we have moved and will move several times, and they are relatively cheap vehicles to purchase and maintain. So they have ended up being great financial decisions for us.

    With respect to the high-water situations and the rural settings, I’ve lived in both. SUV’s may be a slight a convenience there, but not at all a necessity (especially since most really are not that much higher off the ground that they would make much of difference in real flooding situations). In fact, in Houston, where it floods quite often downtown and in the south city, I see SUV’s and trucks stalled out in high-water all the time. Why? Because their drivers actually thought that their vehicles would be useful in high-water.

  84. TeutonicTim permalink
    February 3, 2009 10:42 pm

    Amazingly, this point impressed someone here.

    Amazingly, it makes perfect sense when speaking of reasons to own a large SUV.

    Amazingly, the other “points” against SUVs impressed more than a few VN contributors.

    Amazingly, none of those contributors have offered a solution to the SUV “problem”

    Amazingly, the rest of your post makes sense.

  85. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 3, 2009 10:47 pm

    Having actually sold vehicles, I can say that too many people buy vehicles for a use they’ll need less than 5% of the time. Some of these situations are approaching under 1% or under .1% territory. SUVs are suburban vehicles. They are not rural vehicles or urban vehicles. They support the exurb/subdivision lifestyle. They support the 3500 sq. ft. McMansion carrying garbage from Lowes home every weekend.

    Overall, there are real sustainability issues involved with everyone needing a car.

  86. TeutonicTim permalink
    February 3, 2009 10:59 pm

    too many people buy vehicles for a use they’ll need less than 5% of the time. Some of these situations are approaching under 1% or under .1% territory.

    I’d say that’s a generalization without merit. Where’s your proof?

    Why does it matter what percentage they “need” their vehicle.

    I own power tools, but maybe use them a few hours out of a year. I own cookie sheets, but only bake cookies a few times a year, and on and on and on. What’s your point?

  87. February 3, 2009 11:06 pm

    Overall, there are real sustainability issues involved with everyone needing a car.

    Yes! I only learned to drive at 28, and am still a reluctant driver. I do appreciate the convenience of a car, but it seems so….un-natural sometimes. I prefer walking and the metro.

  88. February 3, 2009 11:07 pm

    Pehaps MM and Michael believe I should get a subsidy from their proposed increased gas tax for providing mass transit on my private initiative? Would they at least be in favor of paying my wife their proposed child care subsidy?

    Absolutely!

  89. February 3, 2009 11:11 pm

    If someone had written about abortion with the blind rage that MM had written about SUV’s, attributing malicious motives to those who procure it, MM would be posting about how unhelpful this prophetic rhetoric is, what a barrier to compromise and dialogue it is, and how the pro-life movement needs to jettison such rhetoric if it is to make any headway in the culture.

    But that’s just killing the innocent, not something as consequential as people’s choice of cars, so I suspect this is a time and issue where prophetic language is called for.

    Fuel efficiency standards in the United States lag the rest of the world dramatically, and successive political regimes simply turned a blind eye, especially to the (quite literal) elephant in the room– SUVs.

    I don’t think “literal” means what you think it means.

  90. February 3, 2009 11:23 pm

    MM-

    You do realize there ia a big wide world outside the beltway, right? Not everyone has a metro where they live.

  91. February 3, 2009 11:25 pm

    It’s easy to villify SUV owners with harsh judgement. It’s much more difficult, though possibly more fruitful, to come up with common-ground policies that reduce the need for SUV’s.

    For example, statistics show that people living in wooded areas buy a siginificant percentage of SUV’s. What if we leveled some of those woods and paved over them? Anyone claiming to be primarily concerned about lowering the number of SUV’s on the road should have no reason why you would oppose such a policy.

    Indeed, this would be the true “anti-SUV” policy perscription. We need to turn the movement away from personal judgment about personal morality, and toward practical measures that will actually reduce the number of SUV’s.

  92. February 3, 2009 11:28 pm

    Poli:

    You do bring up a good point. It’s amazing the “I think my car can take 5 feet” mentality that many people have.

    This story has nothing to do with SUVs, since it was a sedan, but one time I was riding with someone else. We got off the interstate and went under the underpass during a very heavy rain. Not thinking, we went full speed. It was very interesting looking at the standing water making a perpendicular angle to the car as we headed towards it. Luckily the car made it through.

    Back to SUVs though, I do think high water may be a necessity if you live in an area with very poor drainage. My apartment’s parking lot starts to fill up every time its rained. It hasn’t flooded out my car yet but sometimes it looks close. Even if it’s necessary, it does seem to be a decent reason for choosing an SUV over a car.

    That said, your comment does make some very good points. Moving in a Civic is not a whole lot of fun and requires the help of a friend with a truck or an SUV unless you’re all that fond of your bed and other furniture.

  93. February 3, 2009 11:34 pm

    “They support the exurb/subdivision lifestyle. They support the 3500 sq. ft. McMansion carrying garbage from Lowes home every weekend.”

    Hate speech ! Pure automobilism, locationism and squarefootism.

    My McMansion is only 3000sq ft. And Home Depot is closer than Lowe’s, although sometimes I kill the extra rainforest by driving 20 miles to Lowe’s in my SUV.

    Don’t SUV-hate, appreciate. Don’t hate the driver, hate the road.

  94. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 3, 2009 11:36 pm

    A moving truck costs $100 give or take for the day. That trip once a year to way out back country can be done with a rented pickup or SUV for under $100.

    I’d say that’s a generalization without merit. Where’s your proof?
    It’s called a statement from authority.

  95. Robert M permalink
    February 3, 2009 11:36 pm

    I think my biggest problem with MM’s style here is with the personalizing of the issue — I know you claim to ‘hate SUVs’ but quite apart from the silliness of ‘hating’ an inanimate object, what the rhetoric really does is sustain a sneaking suspicion :) that what you really ‘hate’ are people who choose to drive SUVs. Hence all the approving citations of snarky comments about their insecurities etc, which serve no purpose at all in any rational discussion of the pros and cons of SUVs, but serve only to make yourself feel better by ‘illustrating’ how only stupid/bad/unpleasant people could be in favor of something you ‘hate’.

    The only possible reason for bringing such belittling accusation in is to demonize the ‘other’ who has not chosen to view the matter the same way you have. (Also it is interesting that the eeevvviiilll car makers of the world are lying hounds, EXCEPT when we’re quoting their market research, then they’re suddenly credible and reliable students of huamn nature).

    Bottom line, the whole personal angle of attack is completely irrelevant, distracts from the real issues, and only makes people like Bradsher, Mencimer and you look petty, elitist and frankly very difficult to take seriously.
    RM

  96. February 3, 2009 11:38 pm

    Leave it to good left-leaning Catholics to come up with something new to regulate, demonize, envy, condemn…
    I guess the right had all the sex stuff covered :P

    Why would anyone dislike a person based on where they prefer to live ? 8th deadly sin: Live in the suburbs. Refusal to live in Compton = racism. Drive anything bigger than a tricycle = murder.

    Strange times these are.

  97. February 3, 2009 11:59 pm

    But in the interest of making a categorical condemnation of SUVs, MM and especially Iafrate seem willing to throw large Catholic families under a bus.

    Oh please. I have no problems with large Catholic families. My own families (immediate and extended) are pretty big. Don’t distract from real issues by claiming that I hate large Catholic families.

    Pehaps MM and Michael believe I should get a subsidy from their proposed increased gas tax for providing mass transit on my private initiative? Would they at least be in favor of paying my wife their proposed child care subsidy? I can assure you she works very hard every day and provides high quality care.

    ben – Not sure why you’re pretending that I have a problem with your family or your van. I agree with MM that the ideas you have here are good ones.

    It’s easy to villify SUV owners with harsh judgement. It’s much more difficult, though possibly more fruitful, to come up with common-ground policies that reduce the need for SUV’s.

    There is NO “need” for SUVs. None.

    Vox Nova assignment for the day: Write a paragraph explaining the differences between needs and wants, showing evidence of consideration of and solidarity with societies other than middle-class america. Due on my desk by Wed 5pm. GO!

  98. February 4, 2009 12:00 am

    thank you zippy, HA, and phillip for taking us away from any chance of a conversation at all.

    Delighted. After all, with regard to the question you posed earlier — i.e. how many children Catholic couples are required to have (the short answer to which is zero) — then a Vox-Nova post by MM on sport utility vehicles is just the right place to be.

    For a longer answer to your question (which, if you do not have a head for details or do not have much in the way of self-control, is something you might find far more difficult to accept than the short answer) do check out 2368, 2372, etc. on this site or, if you prefer a more colloquial exposition, type something like “2368 catechism contraception” into a competent search engine.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I suppose I should scout out some alternate ways of mocking Lumen Gentium, given that MM is wise to me. Maybe the Calvinists will have some suggestions.

  99. February 4, 2009 12:00 am

    Leave it to good left-leaning Catholics to come up with something new to regulate, demonize, envy, condemn…
    I guess the right had all the sex stuff covered :P

    Why would anyone dislike a person based on where they prefer to live ? 8th deadly sin: Live in the suburbs. Refusal to live in Compton = racism. Drive anything bigger than a tricycle = murder.

    Now THIS is the Gerald we were accustomed to! ;)

  100. February 4, 2009 12:04 am

    Michael,

    How can you be so judgemental? You have no idea what these people’s lives are like. All you care about is whether they buy SUV’s or not. Have you given a thought to what these people’s lives are like for one minute after they make their car-buying decision? Maybe lend them a helping hand, somehow. Nope.

    Since you’re obviously humor-impaired, I was aping the rhetoric you guys take on abortion and applying it to the apparently much more serious issue of SUV ownership, seeing as how it inspired you to give us all an assignment and all.

    It’s good to see you guys are capable of passion and righteous anger sometimes.

  101. February 4, 2009 12:05 am

    On the topic of SUVs, I proudly and unapologetically played a benefit concert for this guy a few years back.

    http://www.freefreenow.org/

  102. February 4, 2009 12:11 am

    Michael,

    I am going to clip and save this post for the next time I am treated to a lecture from you about how counterproductive and wrong “culture war” type rhetoric is.

  103. February 4, 2009 12:11 am

    How can you be so judgemental? You have no idea what these people’s lives are like.

    What are you talking about? I don’t know what it means to be in a family with a lot of kids?

    To repeat: there is absolutely NO “need” for SUVs as YOU have claimed. No “need.” None. My mom’s family (she was 7 of 9) did not “need” an SUV.

  104. February 4, 2009 12:12 am

    Michael,

    Hint to avoid making a fool of yourself again: Try reading my entire post before responding.

  105. February 4, 2009 12:18 am

    Iafrate:

    Did you proclaim your support for the arson of SUVs? Because I don’t know how else to take you unapologetic support of Jeff Luers

  106. Lcb permalink
    February 4, 2009 1:51 am

    Mm,

    I feel you and most commentors have missed the mark.

    American Catholics have neglected to cultivate solidarity and are gripped by materialism.

    If we had greater solidarity our car buying decisions would be better than they are.

  107. February 4, 2009 1:55 am

    “Now THIS is the Gerald we were accustomed to! ;)”

    Damn straight ! I actually need my SUV, but prefer the Soxmobile when it’ll do. Now that one time I transported a 16 foot studio backdrop in the Accord… :D

    Don’t hate on my Pilot…or I will crush you with it !

  108. February 4, 2009 2:02 am

    ….plus, Michael, when I freely gave my middle finger to the anti-gay-marriage-demonstrators, it was more visible from the elevated seat of my SUV. ;-) Surely you don’t want to abrogate my free speech efficiency ? Heh

  109. February 4, 2009 3:09 am

    I hope people see and realize that their comments prove MM’s point — their attitude problem, proven so many times in the nasty remarks you find here, reflects the way all too many SUV drivers act on the road. And it completely runs contrary to all Catholic sensibility. It really is a selfish, me-first, attitude, and if you get in my way, I’ll run you over.

    Secondly, there are other discussions going on in here, some which are important, but the way they are being addressed are improper. Just to give people references to the CCC without any engagement with the text, especially if the person you respond to is not Catholic, is not going to help anyone. The same reason why quoting the Bible to a non-Christian might not always be of help if you want to convince them of some religious point. You need to start with a common ground first.

    Connected to this — people are indeed misrepresenting Catholic thought. “Grave” is not the same as “mortal.” Sins can be grave and yet not mortal; gravity deals with an objective level of evil involved, but there is a subjective level which is needed to turn that grave sin mortal. Moreover, saying something is intrinsically evil does not indicate its gravity — while many intrinsic evils would indeed end up being mortal, again, subjective issues alone indicates this would not always be the case.

  110. February 4, 2009 7:11 am

    Henry,

    Agree with you on intrinsic vs. grave vs. moral. Words have specific meanings, and treating them as equal goesd too far.

    However, I hope what this also demonstrates is that we all have issues on which we sometimes lose perspective and write in what seems to be a blind rage. A running them on this blog has been tsk-tsking those who are upset about the killing of innocent unborn children. Hopefully, some of them can look at their own words regarding people’s choice of cars and approach pro-life people with a bit more understanding, and get why their posts urging us to calm down have the opposite effect.

  111. TeutonicTim permalink
    February 4, 2009 7:52 am

    It’s called a statement from authority.</i

    O Rly?

    I LOL’d

  112. TeutonicTim permalink
    February 4, 2009 7:53 am

    My mom’s family (she was 7 of 9) did not “need” an SUV.

    Oh that’s right, you mentioned you guys got around in the VW death-trap-pollution-machine

  113. February 4, 2009 8:02 am

    I have no affection for SUV’s, but I had to laugh at the ‘Calvinist’ jab. It reminded me of an Alan Jacob’s post from the other day:

    Premise 1: A high percentage of Americans are religious.

    Premise 2: A high percentage of Americans cannot use apostrophes correctly.

    Conclusion: Religion is the enemy of proper punctuation.

    As with apostrophes and religious Americans, so with SUV’s and ‘Calvinism’. The criteria for being ‘Calvinist’ expands daily: next up, Calvinist individualism and professional wrestling!

  114. February 4, 2009 8:29 am

    …their non-trivial contribution to global warming.

    Climate change.

  115. February 4, 2009 9:51 am

    But that’s just killing the innocent, not something as consequential as people’s choice of cars, so I suspect this is a time and issue where prophetic language is called for.

    Exactly. I detect a whiff of hypocrisy in every family of eight murdering the environment with their SUV, pretending that things as trivial as abortion, euthanasia, and other forms of socially sanctioned mass murder are as important as carbon emissions.

    If ego, sanctimony, and substantive pointlessness are hallmarks of the SUV, then Vox Nova is the SUV of Catholic blogs. And the contributors don’t even see the irony.

  116. February 4, 2009 9:57 am

    I am currently praying a novena that we’ll get global warming and that it’s not just another empty campaign promise.

  117. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:10 am

    I get over 100 passenger miles per gallon. This is double what my mother gets when she drives her prius across town by herself.

    This is only a semi-decent point if each passenger, for each consumed gallon, would have otherwise driven the same vehicle the same distance at the same rate of consumption.

    Why is that the relevant criterion? It seems obviously true that if a van/SUV can carry 10 people where they need to go, then that’s better than splitting people up into three small cars to get to the same place.

  118. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:12 am

    Michael I:

    Apparently you didn’t notice that you’re contradicting yourself within a single comment?

    ben – Not sure why you’re pretending that I have a problem with your family or your van. I agree with MM that the ideas you have here are good ones.
    . . .

    There is NO “need” for SUVs. None.

    Well, if there is NO need for SUVs, None, then Ben isn’t just “pretending” that you have a problem with the way his family gets around.

  119. February 4, 2009 10:30 am

    Did you proclaim your support for the arson of SUVs? Because I don’t know how else to take you unapologetic support of Jeff Luers

    The benefit was specifically in reference to the insanely disproportionate sentence that he received. Some who played the show disagreed with his actions but opposed his harsh sentence.

    I am not opposed to politically-oriented property destruction in the least and after hearing the details of the case, yes I approve of what he did. He made his point in a powerful way and it was proven that he took precautions guranteeing that he would not hurt anyone. The SUVs were refurbished and sold later, in case you were wondering what had happened to those sacred objects.

    Oh that’s right, you mentioned you guys got around in the VW death-trap-pollution-machine

    No, my mom’s family (that is, her parents and her 8 sibings) got around in a station wagon.

    Apparently you didn’t notice that you’re contradicting yourself within a single comment?

    S.B. – ben stated that his family gets around in a van, not an SUV.

  120. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:33 am

    And the difference is what? Vans are typically bigger than SUVs, get worse gas mileage, etc., which means that the criticisms of SUVs should apply with even greater force.

  121. February 4, 2009 10:35 am

    No, my mom’s family (that is, her parents and her 8 sibings) got around in a station wagon.

    I’d love to see a return of the station wagon; in fact to some extent we are seeing that in the form of crossovers. But it was CAFE standards which destroyed the station wagon and ushered in the SUV in the first place. This is a classic case of “What would it hurt” followed by “how was I supposed to know?”, including the fact that the very sorts who created the problem in the first place are now the ones whining about it, and insisting that if things had been just a little more draconian, loopholes closed and locked, Utopia would have emerged.

  122. February 4, 2009 10:38 am

    And the difference is what?

    The difference is that Iafrate and MM don’t hate SUVs based on objective reason. Indeed they don’t really hate SUVs at all: they hate the people who buy SUVs, and rationalize that hatred by appealing to various arguments.

  123. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:55 am

    A logic puzzle.

    1) MM argues that SUVs are purchased for reasons outside utility.
    2) A counterexample of someone using a commercial van for utility is offered.
    3) MM states that even in that case, large families at one time were not dependent upon vehicles and it really isn’t a good reason to remove standards. Having stated that, he says that SUVs still aren’t primarily the domain of large families.
    4) From this we arrive at the MM hates large families and wants to torture bunnies.

    With such blinding logic, it’s a wonder why we keep comments open.

  124. Gary Keith Chesterton permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:57 am

    My wife and I have three MINI Coopers. We had four, but I sold one. I suppose that, together, they equal one Escalade.

    We race ‘em at the track.

  125. love the girls permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:08 am

    Michael Iafrate writes : “No, my mom’s family (that is, her parents and her 8 sibings) got around in a station wagon.”

    You cannot put 10 people into a station wagon. The largest ones with three sets of seats holds a legal maximum of 8 people.

    Btw, it’s rather inconvenient, but we use two subarus which each hold 5. It’s rather inconvenient using two cars, but better than using a huge suburban or commercial van like a dozen families I know.

    Plus subarus with good studed tires with go just about any where the SUVs can go and are much better in the snow than the Vans are.

    What really needs to change are the seat beat and car seat laws, then people could pack the kids into smaller cars like we used to as children.

  126. February 4, 2009 11:18 am

    MZ:
    If MM and Iafrate had only said what you summarize in your gloss, I would never have commented in this thread. But what they actually said is right there in the post and thread above.

  127. love the girls permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:33 am

    MZ writes : “3) MM states that even in that case, large families at one time were not dependent upon vehicles and it really isn’t a good reason to remove standards. Having stated that, he says that SUVs still aren’t primarily the domain of large families.”

    So what if they’re not the primary domain? They most likely are among those who read this blog, and their concerns are not even being answered. What does Ben do to move his family in one car given the current laws which demand he use seat belts and car seats with threat of severe repercussions if he doesn’t.

    What is the solution for Ben. Or do large Catholic families simply not count on a supposedly Catholic blog?

  128. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:35 am

    MM states that even in that case, large families at one time were not dependent upon vehicles

    Yeah, who says that large families need a vehicle that could take them all somewhere at once? Why, people in the hunter-gatherer era got around just by walking. So just buy a subcompact car, and if you don’t have a tiny family like mine, most of your family will have to either walk or stay home.

  129. February 4, 2009 11:43 am

    That large families once were able to make do without SUV’s is not an argument that they are not useful for large families today.

    People have been able to make do without cell phones, computers, televisions, and other things. That doesn’t mean that people who use them today do so for less than noble reasons.

  130. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:43 am

    van != SUV

    I did remember a guy joking with me once that his wife would want the “Sport” edition of a minivan.

  131. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:45 am

    Van /= SUV. Yes: they’re probably worse if measured by the reasons that people supposedly dislike SUVs.

  132. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:45 am

    Grenades are ‘useful’ for landscaping. It doesn’t make them the proper tool.

  133. February 4, 2009 11:46 am

    But it was CAFE standards which destroyed the station wagon and ushered in the SUV in the first place.

    NO. NO. NO. I addressed that in the post. It was the CAFE exemption for light trucks that brought about the rise of the SUV, sold to eager customers who valued power and acceleration in their large vehicles. Usually, when we see a loophole in a law or regulation, we close the loophole, we don’t abolish the law or regulation itself.

  134. February 4, 2009 11:51 am

    I surely appreciated my Honda Pilot in the Oregon National Forest last November, when all of a sudden a huge bear appeared infront of the hood. A quick evasive maneuver to the left and slowing down resulted in the bear hitting the car on the side. The loud thud rather terrified my mother who was sitting where he hit. Upon escaping from the forest, inspection showed that the Pilot had not even suffered a scratch.

    Honda 1 Bear 0

  135. February 4, 2009 11:54 am

    Feddie: “You do realize there ia a big wide world outside the beltway, right? Not everyone has a metro where they live.”

    My wife and I insisted on living by the metro, so we could take the metro to work, on principle. That meant paying more for the house and taking on a mortgage that is uncomfortably high (especially in the current environment).

    You live in a town in Georgia, right? I’m pretty sure that town has at least a bus service. Do you use the bus service? With all your political contacts, have you ever lobbied for better public transportation in your town? Or does that fly in the face of the “low tax at whatever cost” mentality that is so prevalent in your part of the world?

  136. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:02 pm

    Gerald,

    An over 1 ton steel vehicle engineered such that a 35 mph side impact collision with another 1 ton object does not cause death to the occupant being able to repel a 350lb bear going 3 mph is not shocking.

  137. February 4, 2009 12:17 pm

    I’m going to reproduce a line from the post, since nobody seems to care about it:

    “If a car hits another car in the side, the driver of the hit car is 6.6 times more likely to die than the hitting driver. If the hitter is an SUV, it rises to 30 to 1. Also, a pedestrian is twice as likely to die when hit by an SUV than a car.”

  138. February 4, 2009 12:18 pm

    I am not opposes to politically-oriented property destruction in the least….

    Destroying the property of another is immoral in its object, and therefore always and everywhere immoral.

    • February 4, 2009 12:28 pm

      Tom, I hope you don’t support war, where, of course, the destruction of another’s object is a part of the process, which you just labelled an intrinsic evil. Of course, destruction of another’s object has never been declared to be intrinsically evil for many reasons, just like war has not; confiscation and destruction of objects owned by someone else is can be permissible by governments, for example, when it is clear the person is going to use it for destructive purposes which will hurt the common good. It is also not just governments: if you someone’s object rolling towards you and about to roll you over, I am sure it is not immoral to destroy it, especially if no one is in it.

  139. February 4, 2009 12:30 pm

    so every car that is stronger than the weakest car available is immoral. Enjoy your Lada Taiga.

  140. February 4, 2009 12:32 pm

    MM,

    If there is a part of your post that you feel is not getting due attention, then you might consider that the failing is yours as a writer, for including in your posts passages that are much more controversial, and thus attract (what you claim is unwanted) attention.

    * SUV’s are not fuel efficient (Non-controversial)
    * SUV’s are more dangerous in an accident (non-controversial, and supportable by evidence)
    * SUV owners are vain, selfish people who don’t care about anyone else (Controversial, and likely to bring about strong disagreement, and ultimately impossible to prove).

    Add in that the person indulging in such rhetorical excess on the issue of what cars people buy regularly chides people for their rhetorical excesses in speaking out against legal killing of the unborn, and you have a recipe for the type of conversation you claim to not want to have.

  141. February 4, 2009 12:35 pm

    It was the CAFE exemption for light trucks that brought about the rise of the SUV, …

    Right. CAFE wasn’t draconian enough, on your narrative, so people worked around it. If only the standards get draconian enough your urban public transportation fantasy, in which everyone becomes like you, will become a reality. I get that, and wrote it in the comment that you replied to.

    Also, you are simply wrong to think that nobody cares about the safety, etc issues you raised. Lots of us have acknowledged a degree of truth in your criticisms of SUVs. What people are responding to though is your self-righteous preening, upside down priorities, “what if everyone were as wonderful as me” fantasizing, etc.

    Can you bring yourself to publicly and unequivocally state that fighting legal abortion is several orders of magnitude more important an issue than SUV regulation? Or not?

  142. February 4, 2009 12:37 pm

    MM,

    “If a car hits another car in the side, the driver of the hit car is 6.6 times more likely to die than the hitting driver. If the hitter is an SUV, it rises to 30 to 1. Also, a pedestrian is twice as likely to die when hit by an SUV than a car.”

    I suspect that part of the issue here is that few people go around expecting to t-bone another vehicle, while people are often afraid that someone else will t-bone them. Thus, when people talk about SUVs being “safer”, the mean “if some maniac hits me, the weight of my vehicle will protect me” rather than “if I’m putting on make up while driving and t-bone a SmartCar, that guy will be okay”.

    Example: A family friend who has a Suburban in which she drives around her two kids (which personally strikes me as a rather silly choice) was t-boned at 50mph by a full size pick up. She and her kids walked away with nothing but bruises, and she immediately bought another Suburban to replace the totaled one telling me, “If I’d been driving a little Japanese compact like yours, my kids and I would be dead now.”

    Personally, I like to imagine I’m agile enough in my compact that I can get out of trucks’ way most of the time (it’s worked so far!) and that it’s light enough I’ll just bounce out of the way if hit — but she may well be right. I’m sure if it had been me I would have at least been seriously injured if the stats you cite are correct.

    Now, I get the argument that if no one was driving full size pick ups, you wouldn’t need to be in a Suburban to stand up to side collisions (and personally I’m willing to simply take the risk because I figure life is risky anyway and we all have to die some time) but I’m not really clear how you tell someone with that experience that she absolutely should not buy her Suburban and that she’s a bad person for wanting to.

    Which is probably why your arguments aren’t getting you very far.

  143. February 4, 2009 12:43 pm

    MM-

    Actually, I drive a Subaru Forrester, and live about 7 miles from my home (near downtown Macon).

    And no, I don’t spend a great deal of time lobbying for better public transportation (although I certainly favor it). I am too busy being an advocate for unborn children. You should try it some time.

  144. S.B. permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:44 pm

    MM — the statistic that you cite came from a paper (by Hollowell and Gabler) called, “The Aggressivity of Light Trucks and Vans in Traffic Crashes.” Not only did their paper concern “vans,” they include a table pointing out that the death rate in “struck vehicles” was substantially higher for vans and pickup trucks than for SUVs.

    So if you ever get around to having a conversation with Ben, you should encourage him to find an SUV to replace his van. At least that’s what your own evidence would suggest.

  145. February 4, 2009 12:53 pm

    Henry:

    I didn’t bother to provide precise definitions and caveats in my post because the only people who would insist they are needed are the people who wouldn’t accept them anyway.

  146. Driver permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:58 pm

    I have the right to decide what is safest for my family.

    When the metal meets the meat, I want the vehicle with bigger mass.

    I also want the vehicle with better horsepower.

    I want the vehicle with 4 wheel control.

    I want a vehicle with height so I can see people/things coming at me.

    • February 4, 2009 1:04 pm

      Driver — aka, “I won’t be posting here” IvyCatholic/ Elihu Yale
      … I think many know you believe the world should bend to your will instead of you bending your will for the sake of your neighbor.

  147. Knuckle Dragger permalink
    February 4, 2009 12:59 pm

    Global warming? They can’t forecast tomorrow’s weather accurately let alone 50 years from now.

  148. February 4, 2009 1:32 pm

    John: the part you deem “controversial” is taken directly by the marketing anslysis by the folks who actually sell SUVs. Don’t shoot the messenger!

  149. February 4, 2009 1:38 pm

    Darwin:

    I made that very “arms race” point in the post. Sure, I can understand why people make those decisions, but a situation where everybody in the road is driving a dangerous behemoth is surely a bad equilibrium, no? Everybody acting in their own self-interest does not always lead to a socially optimal solution. In situations like this, standard economic theory says the government should step in. And I’ve given you my proposed solutions: EU-type emissions standards, with no light truck loopholes and higher gas taxes.

  150. E. Begley permalink
    February 4, 2009 1:51 pm

    editor: From our troll more common known as Liturgical Dancer
    There actually is great joy in not owning a car at all.

    My family and I have transitioned completely to bicycles, although when my kids were very young, we did supplement just fine with a recycled rick-shaw.

    Please open your minds. There is much that can be done.

    P.S. Turn down your thermostat and buy a “Snuggie” :)

  151. February 4, 2009 1:58 pm

    Vans are ‘licit’ because they’re not cool. Nobody drives a van unless they have to. Since SUVs are cool, they are evil. Didn’t you guys pay attention in catechism class ? :-P

  152. Robert M permalink
    February 4, 2009 2:25 pm

    MM,
    So a hybrid SUV that meets EU emission standards would be OK with you?

    And please stop being disingenuous about your use of the ‘marketing analysis’ — apart from your desire to make yourself feel good by making those who disagree with you ‘bad’ (and even better, getting ‘someone else’ to say it, so it a) must be true and b) you yourself avoid getting your hands dirty) tell me again how it has any bearing whatsoever on a discussion of whether or not SUVs make sense. it doesn’t of course — it is completely gratuitous (besides being completely speculative).

    Again, the real problem is your ‘hate’ is actually directed at those who don’t agree with you, not their cars (or perhaps more correctly, you ‘hate’ their ‘choices’, which is almost always the reaction of people who are looking for affirmation of their own). You don’t recognize / want to admit that, of course, but I submit that its the only logical explanation that fits all the evidence.
    RM

  153. LCB permalink
    February 4, 2009 2:48 pm

    MM,

    By intentionally moving closer to a location that has easily accessible mass transit you have now made it more difficult for those who CANT AFFORD cars to access mass transit, since you have driven up the value of the property and reduced the supply.

    Your liberal trendiness is hurting the poor.

  154. grega permalink
    February 4, 2009 2:54 pm

    Freedom in a democratic society cuts many ways.
    Yes big surprise the rules of the game are in flux.
    Perhaps for the time being the SUV period is about to be ushered out – no reason to ‘hate’.
    I found that JohnMcG has a point
    “Add in that the person indulging in such rhetorical excess on the issue of what cars people buy regularly chides people for their rhetorical excesses in speaking out against legal killing of the unborn, and you have a recipe for the type of conversation you claim to not want to have.”
    “Hopefully, some of them can look at their own words regarding people’s choice of cars and approach pro-life people with a bit more understanding, and get why their posts urging us to calm down have the opposite effect.”

  155. LCB permalink
    February 4, 2009 2:55 pm

    MM,

    Here is a prime on the Law of Unintended Consequences, and one prime example of it:

    Freakanomics, Freak-TV

    CAFE standards are subject to this law, being mostly responsible for the massive increase in urban sprawl. Shocked? CAFE made it economically viable or people to live further and further from their jobs, etc.

    Liberalism isn’t the solution, MM, it’s the problem. Revoke CAFE, gas prices will rise accordingly, and we would have had authentic energy efficient vehicles as a response to market demand two decades ago.

  156. February 4, 2009 3:02 pm

    I am going to clip and save this post for the next time I am treated to a lecture from you about how counterproductive and wrong “culture war” type rhetoric is.

    Are you referring to my support for Jeff Luers? If so, that ain’t “culture war rhetoric,” but direct action.

  157. February 4, 2009 3:43 pm

    LCB: I’m laughing at your attack on “liberalism” while supporting a free market solution to an issue with major negative externalities– priceless!!!

  158. alex martin permalink
    February 4, 2009 4:10 pm

    The answer you are looking for, Zippy, is “No, he cannot.”

  159. February 4, 2009 4:14 pm

    MM,

    I did follow that part, but it strikes me as perhaps an overly abstract approach. After all, it requires that everyone then go through the costly transition where they get rid of their older, larger vehicles and buy more efficient ones. In the mean time, those with the least money to rush out and buy a eurocar are the ones stuck paying the massive gas tax — so it’s a highly regressive approach. (And, of course, those who are seriously poor and are stuck driving 20-year-old junkers tend to get lousy mileage too, and would be hit hard by $6/liter gas.)

    Also, it strikes me as rather distasteful to consciously push the plebs, which is really what the European approach achieves. No one has succeeded in keeping the Euro elites out of their Land Cruisers and other massive luxury vehicles — it’s just that only the truly rich (rather then the brash middle class and the overly leveraged) can afford them. It fits will with the heirarchical nature of European society, but those in the US would (rightly I think) find it much more distasteful.

  160. February 4, 2009 4:54 pm

    I suppose it is OK to hate SUVs (or TV or fast food or blue sweaters) – but not sure why I should care what another’s choices are. Do I care if you use too much paper, or cut your grass more frequently than I? The second sentence about it being emblematic of materialistic excess? Kind of like the incarnation?

    Oh my! The desire to find some ICON of some political position and then attack it is so shrill as to inspire resistance just for the sheer joy of annoying such pettiness.

    I already seek out environmentally hostile shower-heads. I may have to get a used SUV -cheap from a guilty first owner- and derive pleasure from the angst it brings to my would-be slave-master.

    WWE

  161. February 4, 2009 5:19 pm

    I haven’t read through all 100+ posts, but here’s some viewpoints:
    1. SUVs don’t usually carry more kids than mini-vans, unless they’re the really big ones. My in-laws have had a 9-passenger Suburban for 20 years, and it’s still running. Though their six kids are too old to be riding around together, the Suburban has proven very useful in family moves, etc.
    2. I don’t understand Hummers, which are huge yet don’t really have that much seating.
    3. I have recently started driving a Chevy Express 3500. The SUVs look puny to me now. It’s handicapped equipped, so I can use my electric wheelchair and actually go out and do stuff. It fits all my four kids comfortably, and we still have room for a few more kids down the line. It’s a 2000 that I bought used. Many experts have pointed out that the environmental cost of manufacturing a new car vastly outweighs gas mileage.
    It uses the same engine as a Yukon, and my plan is, in a couple years when Yukon hybrid engines are on the market, to have the innards swapped out with those of a Yukon hybrid.
    A few weeks ago, the kids and I took a trip to Earth Fare. We were behind a Prius in traffic, and the Prius parked next to another Prius. The woman who drove the Prius shot us a nasty look as we drove by her in the parking lot.
    (It is amazing the hateful glances I get since driving this vehicle). I was thinking of the irony.

    Experts also say that hybrids only save significant gas mileage on the highway. So a single woman driving a small Prius to the “organic” grocery store to buy -how much in groceries?–is spending about 30 miles to the gallon to cart one woman and a bag or two of groceries.

    Here I was, spending 15 mi to the gallon to transport myself and four kids, plus my wheelchair. I used my GPS to map out the ideal route so we could a) drop off my grades; b) drop off a van load of cardboard at the recycling center; c) buy our gluten-free stuff at Earth fare; d) buy our regular groceries at Wal-Mart; and e) scope out a couple potential homes.

    If I did not have my big van, I would have had to go out by myself and drive a whole trip just to dump the cardboard. I would not have had the room to buy as many groceries in one trip, necessitating *at least* separate trips to Wal-Mart and Earth Fare ,if not two trips to each. Without my wheelchair, I would have required my wife’s assistance on said trip, meaning that we’d *both* have to go, with all the kids in the car.
    So it’s not just a matte rof mileage, but how much you can get done on a single trip.

  162. LCB permalink
    February 4, 2009 6:32 pm

    MM,

    You write, “LCB: I’m laughing at your attack on “liberalism” while supporting a free market solution to an issue with major negative externalities– priceless!!!”

    To which I respond:

    1) My first point (regarding your displacement of the poor and needy) is to highlight the problem of liberal ideology (which often carries a strong “feel good” component) when it is lived out on the individual level.

    2) My second point (regarding the law of unintended consequences) is to highlight the problem of liberal ideology when the people are oppressed with it, and how it ends up harming those it intends to help (often due to a strong “feel good component” that disregards reality and economics).

    I have no problem with where you choose to live, and laud your decision to live in a location that you want to live in. You’ve worked hard, and you and your wife are experiencing the fruit of your collective labor.

    I do have a problem with you displacing the poor and needy in the name of solidarity with the poor and needy.

  163. February 4, 2009 6:49 pm

    I don’t understand Hummers, which are huge yet don’t really have that much seating.

    They are male genital extensions, and nothing more.

  164. love the girls permalink
    February 4, 2009 8:21 pm

    “I don’t understand Hummers, which are huge yet don’t really have that much seating.

    They are male genital extensions, and nothing more”

    And the real reason for hating SUV’s finally rears its head so to speak. The real reason is penis envy.

  165. February 4, 2009 8:37 pm

    Experts also say that hybrids only save significant gas mileage on the highway.

    The opposite is true. My Escape hybrid gets fantastic mileage in slow stop-and-go traffic, which is what I usually drive in, because the gas engine is not running for half the time or more. It gets slightly worse mileage on the freeway. For long trips on the freeway, the extra weight of the hybrid makes it perform worse than a comparably equipped and sized ordinary car.

    So the hybrid is way more efficient in stop and go traffic, and is just basically comparable on the freeway, with comparable performance to a V6 in both kinds of driving.

  166. February 4, 2009 11:59 pm

    When the revolution comes, a Hummer will prove to be quite useful.

  167. February 5, 2009 3:52 am

    “It fits will with the heirarchical nature of European society”

    Eh ? You do know where the discrepancy between workers and boss is the biggest, yes ? The average Western European does a lot better than the average American. The reason I wouldn’t drive an SUV in Vienna is because parking is a pain to begin with, the streets are narrower, gas costs a fortune and SUVs aren’t meant for cities to begin with. It has nothing to do with “hierarchy”.

    I thought hummers was what happened to “male genital extensions”.

  168. Zak permalink
    February 5, 2009 10:26 am

    Michael,
    If you’re mom was 7 of 9, no wonder she didn’t need an SUV. She had a Borg cub, which is far more destructive.

  169. Zak permalink
    February 5, 2009 10:27 am

    Borg cube, not cub

  170. February 5, 2009 10:48 am

    This post brings to mind the episode of South Park called “Smug Alert.” Worth a look.

  171. February 5, 2009 3:53 pm

    Michael Denton – Thank you for drawing attention to Jeff Luers’ cause on your blog. I appreciate it. I do wish, though, that you would have done so without being so dishonest about my own beliefs, particularly with regard to abortion and violence.

  172. S.B. permalink
    February 5, 2009 4:02 pm

    You say that as if you believed in some sort of moral obligation to represent someone else’s beliefs accurately.

  173. February 5, 2009 4:05 pm

    You say that as if you believed in some sort of moral obligation to represent someone else’s beliefs accurately.

    Of course.

    Assuming you also believe in that moral obligation, I hope you will join me in encouraging Mr. Denton to be a little more honest.

  174. S.B. permalink
    February 5, 2009 4:10 pm

    First things first . . . clear up your own misrepresentations.

  175. February 5, 2009 4:45 pm

    Well, I suppose my assumption that you, too, believe in that moral obligation was just that: an assumption. I suppose you won’t be of much help in teaching Mr. Denton much of anything.

  176. S.B. permalink
    February 5, 2009 4:52 pm

    Of course I believe in being honest about what someone else has said. That’s precisely why I have objected to your serial misrepresentations. If you can clear those up, and then if you can identify the specific language in which Michael Denton has supposedly misrepresented your views, I’d be happy to object.

  177. February 5, 2009 5:19 pm

    Stuart Buck – I don’t plan on dealing with Denton’s mischaracterizations here. I only wanted to thank him.

  178. February 7, 2009 12:40 pm

    …dissident Catholic bloggers go hebephrenic on SUV’s.

    Nice, Tito.

Trackbacks

  1. Man Bites Blog » Blog Archive » On SUV’s unity; On abortion, liberty
  2. Adfero et Iudicium for 2-6-2009 AD « The American Catholic

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