Posts Tagged ‘Getting Green Done’

SUVs Are Not the Devil

The following is from Auden Schendler’s book, Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution – a current Earthkeeper favorite.  This particular piece illustrates how environmental  “tunnel vision” – even well-intended – can in fact be damaging to the greater cause.

It has long been in vogue to hate both sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and their drivers. The environmental community encourages commando citizens to paste I’m Changing the Climate, Ask Me How bumper stickers onto the biggest offenders. A group called Earth on Empty, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, was “ticketing” SUVs for “failure to pay attention to your own behavior,” among other crimes, and the Sierra Club, after dubbing the Ford Excursion the Valdez, had a hand in the company’s decision to mothball the beast. (That and the fact that it got 3.7 miles per gallon in city driving during one test.) A few years ago, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt joined with NPR’s Car Talk guys on a campaign with bumper stickers that read: Live Larger, Drive Smaller: Not Everyone Needs an SUV. Throughout the nation, the SUV has superseded DDT and big dams on the environmental blacklist. And the religious community has even come up with the WWJD campaign: “What Would Jesus Drive?”

There are good reasons for the anti-SUV bias. Since every gallon of gasoline burned puts twenty pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, gas-guzzling SUVs are major contributors to global warming. Each five-mile-per-gallon increment in improved fuel economy keeps ten tons of CO2 from being released over the lifetime of a vehicle.

Global warming aside, sport utility vehicles spew 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than passenger cars. Those pollutants are precursors to smog and cause asthma and other illnesses. If SUVs got gas mileage equivalent to that of passenger cars, we’d save one million barrels of oil each day. The list goes on.

But despite the strong case against SUVs, the war against them is probably a mistake on the part of the environmental community.

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