In a recent informal Hurricane survey, 23 percent of the vehicles on campus fell under the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration [NHTSA] definition of “large truck or SUV,” but the streets of Miami hardly warrant a need for four-wheel drive, top-notch suspension or hundreds of horses under the hood. But in the superficial strata of South Florida society, form follows fashion: most parking spaces aren’t big enough anyway.

Current NHTSA sets emission standards for light trucks and cars at 22.2 mpg for new 2007 models. The regulations don’t touch the requirements for large trucks or SUVs, which have enjoyed absolutely no regulation when it comes to vehicle emission. Fuel “inefficiency” for these vehicles, such as the V10 Excursion, clocks in at the low teens, and has even been rumored to average single digits in stop-and-go metro traffic.

These figures are obscene, given the advancements in technology that manufacturers have been able to achieve in recent years. Smaller cars such as the Acura Integra get around 30 mpg, and hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic get over 45 mpg.

The abundance of Hummers and Excursions is an unnecessary display of extravagance and over-spending, and more importantly, an all-out affront to the environment.

Driving around in an SUV instead of a fuel-efficient vehicle is about as bad for the environment as a hard night of partying before a final exam is for your g.p.a

. According to the Sierra club, high smog levels cause 159,000 trips to the emergency room, 53,000 hospital admissions and 6 million asthma attacks each summer.

NHTSA is hesitantly entertaining a proposal to make large SUVs and trucks comply with federal fuel standards for the first time ever. This proposal should be at the forefront of the Environmental Protection Agency’s agenda.

The few reasons for stalling regulation – protection of American jobs and American vehicle manufacturers – pale in comparison to the importance of reducing emissions. Unfortunately, Bushie’s economic agenda during election year poses a significant setback to efforts by the greenies to pass legislation.

The problem is that mind comes before matter. Perhaps requiring stringent fuel standards not only for SUVs but across the board for all vehicles would modify the mindset of materialism that pervades Miami culture. But changing the mindset of consumers is about as easy as passing an exam with a raging hangover.