Opinion

SUVs clog the roads and the air

Americans like big things. Whether you look at our obesity rate or the amount of food in a McDonald’s super-sized meal, it is obvious that we just won’t settle for anything less than the best and the biggest. It is part of our identity, it is our rallying cry in times of distress, it is what makes us better than our enemies. Look at our history: we couldn’t be satisfied by the vast tract of land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, and so we pushed westward in covered wagons, planted ourselves in some Native American tribe’s back yard, and methodically decimated their population. But we weren’t satisfied with that, and so we built the longest stretch of train tracks in the world, from one coast to the other. But still our insatiable thirst for grandeur could not be quenched so we built skyscrapers hundreds of stories high and cities that put ancient Rome to shame. And now in 2002 as we are running out of things to make bigger, Americans have poured their super-sizing energies into two things that apparently can’t get big enough: sports utility vehicles and the hole in the ozone layer.
Yes, as Ford and Chevy relentlessly compete to see which company can make a truck that most closely resembles the Death Star in the opening sequence of “Star Wars,” some environmentalists are urging them to put the proverbial brakes on their operations. Now to fairly represent both sides, there are probably some people thinking that a little global warming never hurt anyone and that we should just leave those poor, monolithic, soulless corporations alone. But the facts are quite alarming.
Recently in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, a plan has been put in the works to deal with the massive increase in air pollution. Although diesel trucks and power plants are partially to blame, authorities are focusing especially on SUVs as a major factor in that increase. SUVs are not held to the same standards as passenger cars in terms of emissions, and the results are turning out to be disastrous. If the crippling dependence on foreign oil isn’t bad enough, the proliferation of SUVs on the road has caused problems that are far more serious than initial reports suggested. The original plan in these areas was to eliminate an expected three tons per day of excess emissions, however, in light of recent studies that number has jumped to 47 tons per day of excess emissions.
Of course, SUVs could easily be made more efficient. Simple changes in manufacturing would take care of at least part of the problem. However, those changes will cost money and the auto industry, like just about every other industry, would rather increase profits while flushing humanity down the toilet, than spend an extra buck to ensure our safety. It seems the only way to make them change is through our government.
Once you have stopped laughing at that proposition, consider the sobering reality that in order for the auto industry to clean up its act, we must rely on action from a government that has rolled around on adulterous, soft-money-stained sheets with big business for decades. Indeed, we must rely on a government that is literally pimped by big business, and we must ask that government to turn around and try to restrict the very force that has nearly complete power over it.
In all fairness, the Bush administration is considering an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards by 2007, something that would hurt SUV manufacturers, but help to alleviate environmental degradation and lessen our dependence on oil. But it’ really up to us to refuse to purchase automobiles that are designed to pollute and guzzle gasoline fast enough to keep a man like Hussein in power for a million years. Maybe the citizens of America have to step in once again and remind the government that we run this country, not Ford or Chevrolet.

November 26, 2002

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.