Peace through victory - the American way.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

SUV Scapegoats In War On Terror.

Lots of Americans own SUVs because of their convenience. Their size seats a family comfortably. Their design permits them to carry cargo as well as passengers. They are the station wagon of our times.

But for every American who owns an SUV there are others who hate the car as a moral outrage and an environmental monster. Since SUVs are bigger than most other cars they block the views of other drivers. Their large size makes them a danger to other cars in an accident. They are designed for traveling off-road but most owners use them only on roads, which anti-SUV moralists love to point out. But worst of all, SUVs use more gas than cars. SUV fuel consumption and the War on Terror have given the anti-SUV moralists a new club to attack the evil urban assault vehicle.

The new attack claims that SUV ownership helps to fund terrorism. The theory goes that SUVs waste gas and increase America's gas consumption, which in turn increases our dependence on foreign oil, and our dependence on foreign oil sends money overseas, which finds its way to financial supporters of Islamist terrorism.

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman's recent column is the latest attack on America's SUV ownership. He adopts the argument that SUV ownership helps support terrorism and he criticizes GM for offering to partially subsidize the gasoline bills of new buyers of GM SUVs. (Sorry, no link because The New York Times doesn't publish their columnists for free on the internet.)

Friedman has some credibility because he has been a vocal supporter of the War on Terror since 9/11. Yet his attack on SUVs is misplaced. The real gas guzzlers in America aren't SUVs. The real gas guzzlers are commercial big rig trucks.

The United States government publishes some pretty handy statistics on fuel consumpion in America in graphical form. The graphs are revealing. (Here.) Since 1966 SUV, truck and van, fuel consumption and miles travelled either declined or held steady. During the same period big-rig trucks increased their fuel consumption and miles travelled.

But it's the mileage rate comparison that is the most telling and the most troubling. The rate for SUVs, trucks and vans increased substantially from just under 10 miles per gallon to around 20 miles per gallon since 1966. Yet, the mileage rate for big-rig trucks has held steady at an abysmally low rate around 5 miles per gallon.

If anti-SUV moralists are truly concerned about America's dependence on foreign oil, they should stop scapegoating SUVs and start advocating improved fuel efficiency for big-rig trucks. Or maybe getting the cargo off the highways and back onto the rails where it belongs.


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