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SUVs - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2004-01-04 13:15
SUVs
Public
devious
Though I can be fairly opinionated about what is appropriate fuel efficiency and emissions for automobiles, I don't usually take it out on their owners, since
  1. perhaps they need such a grossly over-sized vehicle (such as my old landlord, who was a tree specialist and needed a large truck for his business, or the over-sized families in Utah, which can only be accommodated in over-sized "Mormon Assault Vehicles"), and
  2. I've seen many SUV owners - and people in general - get irrationally defensive when someone berates them personally for a choice they've made. Ad hominem and knee-jerk reactions don't solve anything.
That said, I'm just as frustrated as many others at the plethora of SUVs on the road, for safety, environmental, and economic reasons. I was happy with the anti-SUV commercial aired a while ago, and amused at anti-SUV movements such as FUH2 and this Adbusters CultureJam, even though they sparked quite a bit of hate mail. I was also amused by Jon Stewart's comment about it all: "... The answer is the hybrid gas-electric car, which only supports terrorists when going uphill." (And speaking of Jon Stewart, while I was looking around the web I found this amusing Bush vs. Bush debate.)

Addendum 1/5/04: Fueleconomy.gov has a fuel economy calculator that's right on with mileage for my 1987 Nissan Sentra. Very awesome!
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tobo
nibot
2004-01-04 15:24 (UTC)
(no subject)
Driving to Berkeley yesterday I saw and RV towing a Hummer (H2).

Clearly the economy is not as bad as we thought it was, if it can support such a ridiculous phenomenon.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-05 11:26 (UTC)
(no subject)
*fear*
How many gallons per mile do they get, I wonder?
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John
surpheon
2004-01-05 23:07 (UTC)
Nobody sucks down oil like the good 'ol military
Forget SUV's - a tank gets around 0.56 mpg while an aircraft carrier gets around 17 feet per gallon. And not everything on a car body does better. My future cars, a Porsche 928 and Ferrari 308 don't do that well :(. So, to have any hope of avoiding death by bad karma, I do plan to get a house close enough to work to bike normally, leaving driving for weekends and track days. And to avoid too much hypocrisy, I hate SUVs because they are liable to kill me and I can barely see under them from my car, not merely because they are obscene energy wasters. In the end, I would really like to see a real gas tax - $1 or $2 per gallon (with exemptions for commercial traffic). I know its regressive as hell, but if the true cost of gas were accounted for, I trust the free market to optimize usage. The current system is asinine.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-07 10:25 (UTC)
Re: Nobody sucks down oil like the good 'ol military
True, the military does use a lot of fuel, but I tend to focus on cars because that's a clear way for individuals to make a difference.

You're right that SUVs aren't always the worst offenders. The least efficient 2004 car listed is a 12-cylinder Lamborghini Murcielago, which gets 9 mpg city and 13 highway, and emits an off-the-charts 17.7 tons of greenhouse gases a year on average (of course, that's if you use it for things like driving to the store). I tend to harp on SUVs more than sports cars because there just aren't that many real sports cars around, while SUVs are everywhere. Sure, people have their Beemers and Mercedes, but those aren't too bad in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions. Cars like the 12-cylinder Lamborghini are rare, both because they cost an arm and a leg, and those who own them tend not to drive them very often. The SUV decision, in contrast, is one that many people will make, and it's a clear way for individuals to do something sustainable (in the environmental, economic, and social sense of the word). Also, the safety problems with SUVs, as you said, worry me.

When we talked about raising gas prices as a way to reduce demand in my Planning for Sustainability class, the prof pointed to Europe to say that price hikes didn't reduce gas usage by any significant amount. Sure, it may have dissuaded a few from driving, but roads are still clogged by commuters - and that's with super-efficient rail and subway systems also! When I asked my relatives in Paris why they don't drive more, they said that the roads were clogged and parking was a pain, not that the gas cost too much. Legislation that has worked in Europe to reduce car usage in an area is aggressive public transit advertising, "traffic calming," and car-free zones.

Of course, all the cars over there are much smaller and more fuel-efficient, so high gas prices do apparently work to increase fuel efficiency (though it doesn't make people drive less). But I've heard that there has been an increase in SUV sales in Europe.

Speaking of aircraft, planes are also pretty fuel-inefficient. David was looking up a lot of plane statistics a while ago ... if I remember right, up to half of a plane's fuel can be burned just during takeoff, and plane fuel still includes lots of noxious chemicals.
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wayoftheburnout
2004-01-07 15:52 (UTC)
Re: Nobody sucks down oil like the good 'ol military
Cars like the Lamborghini (Chrysler) are rare... However my old '72 Ford mustang got 10 city, and 12 highway, which isn't any better really. And from this side of the country I see an awful large amount of '72-'78 dodges, camaros, mustangs, large pickup trucks. Then again, gas here is $1.45/gal for 87 octane.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-07 16:11 (UTC)
Re: Nobody sucks down oil like the good 'ol military
And from this side of the country I see an awful large amount of '72-'78 dodges, camaros, mustangs, large pickup trucks. Then again, gas here is $1.45/gal for 87 octane.

Ditto in Utah.

With the three+ feet of snow we've gotten in the last couple of weeks, 4-wheel drive makes more sense ... but big vehicles that roll easily make much less sense.
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tobo
nibot
2004-01-17 16:08 (UTC)
gas taxes
Why is a high gas tax 'regressive'?
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John
surpheon
2004-01-18 14:10 (UTC)
Re: gas taxes
Well, I was thinking of the standard definition: A tax that takes a larger percentage from the income of low-income people than the income of high-income people. Gas cost alone is regressive, that's why the people who buy (expensive) H2's don't care about the gas cost - the extra cost is an insignificant part of their income. So, a higher gas tax would initially save gas primarily by reducing the amount lower income people could afford to drive (especially since the current stock of cheap used cars are pretty inefficient - you can't really get a beater Prius or even a Honda at the moment!).

In areas like the Bay Area, it can be even more regressive. The poorer people not only cannot afford the additional cost, they also tend to have to commute farther than the wealthy. The wealthy can afford homes or apartments near their place of employment, or at least a BART station. Ask a few janitors around SF how far they have to drive into work...

While all this doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzies, I still think a good solid regressive gas tax is the way to go.
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wayoftheburnout
2004-01-07 05:56 (UTC)
economy
It's doing well if you are already rich. The current economic plans are doing well for their intent: to keep the rich really rich, and to keep the poor really poor. No middle class means no pesky academic intellectuals to challenge the status quo.
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nikita
hukuma
2004-01-05 04:57 (UTC)
(no subject)
The Bush vs Bush thing was great. I agree with your not berating SUV owners; I think everyone has to arrive at a balance between social responsibility and convenience for themselves. But it's a little sad that large families are now buying SUVs, built on a truck platform and with lower emission standards, rather than minivans, which if I recall were a lot more fuel efficient (and safe).
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-05 12:17 (UTC)
(no subject)
I thought so too ... from the fueleconomy.gov calculator, it looks like the best SUV's are actually better than minivans, but half of the SUVs listed are worse than the worst minivan. Same with trucks and minivans.

For 2004 vehicles:
claim to fame name city highway greenhouse gas emissions estimate
best mileage minivan Chrysler Voyager 2wd 20 mpg 26 mpg 8.6 tons/year
worst mileage minivan Kia Sedona 16 mpg 22 mpg 10.4 tons/year
best mileage SUV Toyota RAV4 2wd 24 mpg 30 mpg 7.2 tons/year
worst mileage SUV, gas Land Rover Range Rover 12 mpg 16 mpg 14.1 tons/year
worst mileage SUV, E85 (85% ethanol) Chevy Avalanche/Suburban/Tahoe, GMC Yukon (all the same) 10 mpg 14 mpg 8.9 tons/year
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Becca
rebbyribs
2004-01-05 13:06 (UTC)
Number of passengers
The most efficient SUVs are the ones built on car bases. They only hold 5 passengers at most. I think all of the minivans hold at 7 people at most. SUVs that hold 7 or 8 passengers only get about 15mpg city / 18mpg highway. So the minivans are a more efficient choice if you've got 6 or 7 passengers, and cars or station wagons are more efficient if you've only got 5 or fewer passengers.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-05 21:28 (UTC)
Re: Number of passengers
My mom's 1993ish Toyota Previa minivan seats 8, but I'm not sure if modern ones still do.
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nikita
hukuma
2004-01-07 04:57 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yeah, the RAV4 is hardly in the same size class as a minivan...
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tobo
nibot
2004-01-17 16:15 (UTC)
fuel efficiency
That's somewhat impressive. Our 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon gets a lowly 20 MPG on the highway. True, it is shaped like a brick and probably has enormously more room inside. My 1985 Volkswagen Golf got something like 35 MPG on the freeway (if I drove at a reasonable speed), down to 28 or 30 if I drove at 80 mph. I'm impressed that the RAV4 is nearly as good -- although, it is a 2wd RAV4, so it sort of degenerates to a passenger car anyway. Hm. I would be interested to see small cars on the above list for comparison.
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wayoftheburnout
2004-01-07 05:54 (UTC)
(no subject)
Have you seen the H2? Horrid horrid machine.
Here's some discussion and a link to a site on it.

- 0xb0
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2004-01-07 10:28 (UTC)
(no subject)
Yeah - the FUH2 link above is about H2's.
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