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Sacrificing SUVs?

posted by David Kuo

John Edwards said that he would ask Americans to sacrifice their SUVs in favor of more fuel-efficient cars.
I’m sure people will be mocking him – probably already are – but it is an example of honest leadership.
Consider this – he dared talk about sacrifice. He said he would ask Americans to give up something they like for a greater good. Such talk from a politician was once not all that unusual. In today’s America it is rare because as any pollster will tell you, “sacrifice doesn’t sell” as a message. Why? Well, we Americans don’t like giving up anything. Take a look at our waistlines – mine is 38, should be 36 – and discover we prefer yes to no.
But if the message of global warming is true, if the message of energy independence is true then it follows that sacrificing our gas guzzling SUVs is at least something to talk about… even if the idea of sacrificing is a lost idea.



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Phil DeBrier

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:54 am


Well, we should consider fuel cell cars and tossing the SUV’s to reduce dependence on foreign oil, not for some feel good notion about the scientifically vague notion of “global warming”.
As far as leadership goes, the Senator should lead by example, as pandering to the “global warming” special interest groups is no better then pandering to labor, immigration, or energy special groups. Leadership means saying what you will do, presumably for the betterment of the country as a whole, as opposed to what others should do, and then sticking to your guns when all those special interests start howling about it. It also means being able to admit when you are wrong. So far, no one in the current group of hacks has shown any inclination toward leading as opposed to promising everyone everything.
Phil



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Doug

posted August 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm


It reminds me of when Carter asked us to lower our thermostats one winter due to an oil shortage. I was nine and outraged.
I’ll be picking up my Prius Friday and making fun of Edwards today and on Saturday.
Sacrifice is an important part of the national dialogue and, maybe, the only piety that we can trust. But it’s hard to be scolded by our politicians. I still have some issues I’d like to take up with them.



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Ed

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:00 pm


The only thing vague about global warming, excuse me, I believe the current Republican talking point phrase is “climate change”, is the attitude of those who ignore the research as a way to comfort themselves on their own wasteful lifestyles. No less a leading light than George W. bush has publicly stated that it IS a problem.



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Thinker

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm


Driving less is hard. Planning each trip for maximum use is hard. My goal is less than 50 miles a week and usually I can do it.
A Prius would be nice, but the reality is that few can afford a new car of any sort and those SUV’s are from a time when we did not want to look at future sacrifices.
When Carter asked us to turn down our thermostat many years ago, he was absolutely on the right track. We should have done it then.
And we have done it for the last few years. Air conditioning is a big one for me – I hate the heat. But we let the thermostat crawl up this summer and now it is at 77 without real obvious discomfort. We’ll try to let it crawl up again next summer another degree or two. Edwards is saying things that we don’t want to hear. We are acting like people who put their fingers in their ears and make noises so that we will not have to even face what is coming. Speed limits, themostats, fewer choices in the grocery, fewer trips of any sort. Walking and walking as much as possible.
My city has terrible mass transit – almost non existent and nobody gets that it will destroy us because we also have one of the worst commutes. Edwards has got me thinking about sacrifice. Why are we so reluctant to sacrifice for the common good?



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Steve Boese

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:16 pm


“2 : to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end.” (from Merriam Webster)
It strikes me as a distinctly American take on sacrifice that what Edwards is challenging folks to do is not give up driving but trade some of the size and operating expense of one vehicle for a smaller, more efficient one.
Suffering, the American way: Driving a sedan instead of an SUV.



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Zirk

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm


The best way to lead is by example. Look at John Edwards’ lifestyle, house, the way he travels….even how much he spends on haircuts. He doesn’t know the first thing about sacrifice.



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Phil DeBrier

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:29 pm


Yeah, and Bush also said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and thought the feds were doing a heck of a job responding to Katrina, so you can only put so much stock in that.
Climate change is definitely a fact. There is plenty of geological evidence indicating that the planet has warmed and cooled lots of times in the planets billion year plus history. Climate change has always existed. The only thing being debated today is the notion that if the government nannies have their way and get us all to reduce our carbon footprint by ditching cars, sitting naked in a field and holding our breath that this will somehow magically get the planets fever back down the few degrees necessary to move on to the next crisis of the hour. The public discourse, if it addresses issues of energy use and waste management honestly, will end up properly educating the public to courses of action that need to be done, and also give us a better environment in which to live. Sadly, it’s much easier to whip people into hysteria and waste money on programs that will reward cronies of special interests, but too little to address emissions and pollution.
Phil



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Doug

posted August 29, 2007 at 1:46 pm


To take a second spin at this, I agree that global warming is real enough that you really kind of have to be a jerk not to react for the sake of stewardship. That’s something we should all do as individuals. I’m leery of politicians for one party using global warming the way the other party has Jesus. I happen to believe in both, but feel a little dirty hearing about them from the hustings. Bless John Edwards and his wonderful wife, but why federalize something so personal? What a president thinks I should drive is as frivolous an issue as how the president thinks I should pray. Any candidate who thinks either decision deserves presidential input is problematic to me.



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Phil DeBrier

posted August 29, 2007 at 2:24 pm


I have been switching over to compact fluorescent bulbs at home. They save me some money, and use less energy. It’s a win for everyone. The nannies up in Sacramento would like to ban incandescent bulbs, because of some grand notion that only they can grasp the big picture. I’m sorry, but that is flat out condescending, and I can live without that. If a leader wants to discuss the merits of being a good steward, then that’s what they need to do. The notion that John Edwards or Al Gore can wag their finger at me for driving my Explorer to work while they get around in private jets and own homes that use more power in a day then I use in a year, simply because they pony up a few bucks to fertilize a tree somewhere that’s offsetting their “carbon footprint” is really and insult to my intelligence. That’s not sacrifice, that justification. It lets these guys think they are off the hook, when they are actually setting it deeper.
Phil



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Jan

posted August 29, 2007 at 2:28 pm


Americans must sacrifice. Well, not all Americans. It’s okay for wealthy and famous environmental activists to live in 20K square feet of living space, but little people like us? Um, sorry, no. We must take the bus and turn off the AC on summer days.



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John E.

posted August 29, 2007 at 2:46 pm


Our single family car is a 1994 Miata, not so much a sacrifice.



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Bob Morwell

posted August 29, 2007 at 3:24 pm


I listened to one of the right-wing radio pundits rag on Edwards for this. He insists that he and his family must have an SUV for safety sake…I suspect mostly because they’re afraid of being crushed by one of the other SUVs on the road.
Bush constantly tells us we’re in a war. But the only people being asked to make sacrifices are military families. Somehow, it is deemed unreasonable for us to dramatically reduce our fuel consumption so that money won’t go into the pockets of the Taliband and Al-Qaeda Wahbbis of Saudi Arabia or Castro-wannabe Hugo Chavez. And heaven forbid we enter into a Manhattan Project style effort to wean us from fossil fuels for both securty and evironmental reasons (not to mention our exploding trade deficit.)
God only know what would have happened if the like of Rush Limbaugh and Neal Boortz had demanded similar “rights” during WWII, instead of accepting the temporary emergency policy of fuel rationing.
Maybe we would all be speaking German. But as long as we had Mercedes SUVs. I guess that would be fine.



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Bob Morwell

posted August 29, 2007 at 3:36 pm


One other thought…
Hummers (Humvees) were originally designed as off-road vehicles that would be tough enough to endure harsh environments and combat conditions.
So, I have made a point over the last three years of loking for dirty or mud-spattered Hummers that gave any indication that they had actually done any off-road work, at all.
Since my search began, I have seen literally hundreds of these gas sucking war machines…usually with only one person in them. And in all that time, I have seen two that looked like they may have been off-road, although I suspect one had just driven down a muddy street.
Why not buy a station wagon with as much room as most people will ever need, and get twice the mileage?
It’s staggering how much money we spend on meaningless and useless excess and frivolous status.



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reddopto

posted August 29, 2007 at 4:42 pm


If we take his advice the economy will decline, as will government revenues. This will result in increased utility rates, since they have fixed overhead, and increased taxes, for the same reason.
I was raised by a stingy father, and I know well that people can live with less. It’s easy to rent an SUV or an RV when you need one. Why buy one? I don’t know, but such stupid largesse keeps our economy expanding. Is there such a thing as a comfortable economic contraction?



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Karen

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:03 pm


So, we’re supposed to buy stupid, excessive, wasteful things we don’t need because that’s what keeps our economy going?
And no, doesn’t mean ‘don’t buy things’. Just don’t buy THIS thing. The cash you lay out for one SUV could buy a smaller, less wasteful car, and then a ton of other toys. And buying ten different things equals spreading the wealth more than buying one big, extravagant thing.
Which keeps more people working? Ten people buying ten 100k homes, or one person buying one million dollar one?



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Karen

posted August 29, 2007 at 9:05 pm


In other words, you keep just as many people working buying that Honda Civic as you do buying that SUV.
And more, as you take the savings, including gas, and you can manage to buy OTHER things… including services, that keep other people working and making money.



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reddopto

posted August 29, 2007 at 11:33 pm


Karen, I didn’t say people should buy SUV’s. In fact, I said,Why buy one? My point was that the spend thrifts are the one’s who stimulate the economy, not the prudent buyers. Your comment that Honda Civics keep as many people working as an SUV, is disproven by what’s been happening in the auto industry. When people stopped buying SUV’s two years ago as gas prices took off, auto profits collapsed. Small cars are selling well, but the much more profitable SUV’s are languishing, and thousands of layoffs have occurred.
For some crazy reason we decided to export most of our industry over the last twenty years. How can an economy that’s lost most of its basic industry keep on booming? As far as I can tell it keeps the money flow going by speculative bubbles like real estate, and extravagant consumer spending.
Since families are smaller these days, people should be buying smaller houses. That’s a good idea isn’t it? And, such prudence would help the environment wouldn’t it? But, what have people been buying? Larger and larger homes is what they are buying at incredibly inflated prices, with extremely questionable lending practices. A housing crunch that is bound to last several years is just beginning. By the time its over, seven million families could lose their homes and many banks will disappear. Since extravagant spending is the only thing keeping our economy going, seemingly modest cutbacks may be more painful than expected. This is not to say that such cutbacks aren’t needed. What I would like is for the politicians to stop lying about the fact that such cutbacks will cause economic pain.



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Karen

posted August 30, 2007 at 4:22 am


Well, true. For that to work, we’d have to have people MAKING autos in our country. BTW, actually, it was mostly the US auto market that languished, because they didn’t do any research, except into how to make big, huge beasts. So, when people wanted to buy a smaller car, they didn’t go to a US auto manufacturer.
GMC, Ford, etc, didn’t succeed because they weren’t giving the market what it wanted. They were still, after all, buying cars.
Those layoffs mostly occurred in manufacturers who’d invested heavily in the kind of buyer who bought SUV’s, vans, and other big, guzzling vehicles.
Obviously, the auto industry survived decades prior to the SUV, they could’ve survived after them.
As for the housing industry. That has nothing to do with buying bigger homes to live in bigger homes. It is due to subprime lending and people being given loans they couldn’t possibly pay back in the hope that they could sell their house for more than they could buy it.
If our economy is based on that, it is based on fraud, waste, and what basically was a real estate pyramid scheme.
The fix for that isn’t buying more SUV’s or McMansions. It is getting back to the basics of providing a good or service that someone wants, and can afford to buy, because the person buying it is making enough of a wage to have the disposable income available TO buy it.
Even spendthrifts only truly, and sustainably expand the economy if they can pay for what they buy.



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Matt Devereaux

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:35 am


Americans must sacrifice. Well, not all Americans. It’s okay for wealthy and famous environmental activists to live in 20K square feet of living space, but little people like us? Um, sorry, no. We must take the bus and turn off the AC on summer days.
Do you people listen to yourselves or read what you write before you post? “Well if *he’s* gonna live in a big house and drive a big car, why can’t *i*?”
Didn’t your mother ever tell you that just because your friend jumps off a bridge doesn’t mean you should, too?
Saving energy is everyone’s job. It doesn’t become less your job because some dipwad down the street (or on your television) has a bigger car than yours.
Take some of that spiteful nonsense and think 50 years ahead. What kind of world do you want to leave your grandchildren? “Well, it’s not *my* fault!” is going to be cold comfort.



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Iris Alantiel

posted August 30, 2007 at 9:02 am


For some crazy reason we decided to export most of our industry over the last twenty years.
The crazy reason is profits. Why have domestic workers do jobs when foreign workers in developing countries can do them more cheaply thanks to looser environmental regulations and fewer rules protecting workers’ interests (like, say, a living wage or a safe workplace)?



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Karen

posted August 30, 2007 at 10:45 am


Yeah, short term thinking. Because someone forgot to tell someone else that.. people who don’t have money (because they make crap wages, or have no job) aren’t going to be in the position to buy their products.
Its easy to forget the tie between labor, and customer, when you separate the two by a national border, or a few thousand miles of ocean.



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Doug

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm


Jobs Americans used to do moved overseas because it was more efficient to do that work elsewhere. We have 4.5% unemployment because Americans are still pretty productive and because undocumented working people have kept a workforce here that attracts investment. And yet, we’re more hospitable to carbon emissions than humans.



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canucklehead

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:23 pm


I drive a Sensational, Ugly, Vehicle (SUV)
It is a 1987 Honda Civic that just turned over 330,000 km, gets 50 km/gallon of petro, has several rusty “bullet holes” on both sides and various other cosmetic flaws so that my teenagers refuse to ride w/ me in it.
I intend to keep on driving it until the Lord takes it home to glory.



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Thinker

posted August 30, 2007 at 2:26 pm


canucklehead – one of our cars is a 23 year old Pontiac – inherited at age 20 with 60,000 miles on it. It’s ugly but runs like a top. Unfortunately the gas mileage is pretty bad, so we use it minimally. My car is old, gets 30mpg and my kids make fun of it. However, they have covered both cars with their various bumperstickers – some are really funny. People recognize us by our bumper stickers and I intend to leave them all on – none of them are mine – they all came from the kids. My favorite thing about the Pontiac – my mother-in-law belonged to “The Sacred Heart Auto League” with accompanying stickers. Now that’s a classy sticker – lol. Goal these days is to drive very little. Just bought my first tank of gas in 26 days – will try for 27 next time. but, we are lucky – no long commutes – no relatives very far away. Just feel blessed that I can get away with driving so little.



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Karen

posted August 30, 2007 at 4:00 pm


It wasn’t more ‘efficient’. Since when is it ‘more efficient’ to have to build new factories, have your management have to learn a new language, new legal system (sometimes, such as it was), try to find/create infrastructure, and deal with transportation to get the product (because the customers were still in the US) from the new country to here?
They did it because it was cheaper.
Because those other countries didn’t have to pay their workers squat. Because those other countries don’t have those pesky laws about wages, or hours, or worker safety, or working conditions, or.. (as we are starting to realize more and more now..) quality control, product safety….



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c kitty

posted August 31, 2007 at 11:10 am


One thing I’d like to add to the discussion is the impact of marketing. Hardly anyone needs an SUV, much less a Hummer. But through the miracle of advertising, a market was created for these monstrosities. You can buy personality, power, sex appeal. Everytime I see a driver of one of these things, I am reminded of the old saying, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”



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Karen

posted August 31, 2007 at 2:07 pm


Actually, one of the funniest, and most either intentionally, or unintentionally (ad men can be tricksy that way) revealing ad I saw for a Hummer featured men in situations that for some reason or another seemed to bring their manhood into question. Which was everything from, apparently, being in a grocery cashier line behind a person with an entire cut up cow, and they are buying of, to other such ‘wimpy’ things.. and then going out to buy a Hummer to, as the ad put it, ‘restore the balance’.
I know we’ve all sometimes said it, but ever hear of a more direct statement that buying a big car is ‘compensating’?
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Z0bnXI4nTUQ
So, realize that even the manufacturers (who had to approve the ad, after all) are thinking the same thing.



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Unsympathetic reader

posted September 5, 2007 at 12:11 am


Bob Morwell: “I listened to one of the right-wing radio pundits rag on Edwards for this. He insists that he and his family must have an SUV for safety sake…I suspect mostly because they’re afraid of being crushed by one of the other SUVs on the road.
Then that pundit hasn’t done his homework. “Big” doesn’t necessarily correlate with “safe”.
There are cheaper, safer cars than SUVs. SUVs still roll relatively easily, an inherent design problem that results in higher death rates. Furthermore, many SUVs still aren’t designed with crumple zones at the most effective heights, endangering their passengers and other drivers. In contrast, most of the Honda sedans get five-star safety ratings. So does the Subaru Legacy even the higher end Volvos maintain 5-star ratings despite Ford’s best efforts to ruin the line. These cars are all much better commuting vehicles than SUVs. If you want something with huge carrying capacity and the best safety for your family, get a minivan.



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Peter Ahlstrom

posted September 5, 2007 at 11:39 pm


Some of us NEED SUV’S, even though we wish they were built for better mileage (as we assume they could be). Not because more kids will fit in them, or because they look macho, but just because “you can’t get there from here” without them. We live in Wyoming. A lot of roads out here are not even dirt. Many that my family drives on are just two-lane tracks, recessed deeply enough into the sagebrush plain that any ordinary sedan will come out the other end minus its oil pan and a few other key parts. But it’s either use those “roads” or walk several miles in and out, which is not a practical alternative.
Yeah, we know, most parts of the country are civilized. But we don’t have that luxury. Out here, we live in a county larger than nine states, with a population density of less than 4 per square mile, and all but a few of those are clustered in just 2 towns. Most of the county is just plain uninhabited. (For instance, You’ll only see one inhabited ranch home in the entire 55-mile drive to the Colorado border.)
But we do live here, and work here, and often have to go places those neat economy sedans (which I’ve had) just won’t go at all. Or at least they’ll never get back out. So we’re thankful for our 2 SUV’s. They’re not a final answer, but they’re sure one big step up from using a horse! (Of which there are plenty here.) – Pete A.



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Karen

posted September 6, 2007 at 3:10 am


How’d people get around during the hundred years between the invention of cars, and the introduction of SUV’s?
What ever happened to simple 4 wheel drive pickup trucks, geeps, and vans, etc?
And ‘utility’ or not, how many people do you think really DO take those vehicles that cost more than the average person makes in a year off the road to get all muddy?



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