Thursday, August 25, 2005

Osama LUVs the SUVs 

I'm in complete solidarity with Andrew Sullivan on SUVs (Disclaimer: I really like the look of some SUVs, and wanted an Xterra, but I've changed my mind):
SUVS AND TERRORISM: Fareed Zakaria makes an excellent point today in a column about rising oil prices, and how they are helping to finance the terror masters in Tehran, Saudi Arabi and elsewhere. Some kind of move toward greater energy efficiency is essential in the war on terror. But what I didn't realize is how the curse of the SUV is so damaging. Fareed writes that 54 percent of today's U.S. fleet of cars are made up by these ugly, behemoth tanks that guzzle gas, and make life miserable for everyone not in them. My anti-SUV ire always goes up in the summer, when I see these vast, bloated symbols of excess bulldozing down the narrow streets of Provincetown, pushing every bicyclist, pedestrian or small child out of their way. My only solace is thinking of how many of these SUV owners are pouring money away to keep their mobile homes on the road. Pity that same money goes to finance Islamist terror. And please don't give me all this guff about how I don't have a car (hey, I'm not indirectly donating to al Qaeda), having to take kids here, there and everywhere, with all their stuff and the dogs and suburbs and soccer practices and on and on. All of this took place before SUVs; kids were just packed into back seats and trunks were stuffed full if necessary. Parents coped. Kids thrived. If all else failed, people could even have less stuff. Imagine that: less stuff. As readers know, I'd gladly put a dollar of extra tax on gas, insist on higher fuel standards for cars, make SUVs comply with the fuel standards of other cars and put a tax on SUVs on top pf all that. We are in a war. As far as I'm concerned, those people driving SUVs are aiding and abetting the enemy, and helping to finance the terrorists that want to kill us all. I'm well aware that the notion that the Bush administration has any interest in energy independence or taxing gas or deterring SUVs is about as likely as their demanding subsidies for sex-changes, but I might as well vent. We can always stigmatize these SUV-terror-enablers. How about bumper-stickers for non-SUVs that simply say: my car doesn't subsidize Saudi terror. Would that help?

Here's how increasing the mileage on new cars would be quite beneficial (also from Sullivan's blog):
A simple one-third increase in the mileage of new vehicles would have a remarkably beneficial impact on the United States-Persian Gulf relationship, and quickly.

Here's the math. About 17 million new cars and "light trucks" (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) are sold in the United States each year and driven, on average, about 12,000 miles annually. If the fuel efficiency of 17 million vehicles driven 12,000 miles annually rose by one-third, from a real-world 17 MPG to a real-world 23 MPG, that would save about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per vehicle, or about 3.4 billion gallons of gasoline. Since a barrel of petroleum yields 20 gallons of gasoline, about 170 million barrels of oil would be saved.

Perhaps you think, Aha! With U.S. petroleum demand at 20 million barrels daily, this MPG initiative has saved just about one week's worth of oil. Yes--in the first year, the MPG increase would have little effect, in much the same way that, in their first year, few investments yield much return. But remember the miracle of compounding! In the second year, with two model-years' worth of vehicles at the higher MPG, 340 million barrels of oil are saved. The next year, the savings is 510 million barrels, the next year 680 million, and so on. In just the fifth year of this initiative, we would need to purchase about 850 million fewer barrels of petroleum--approximately the amount the United States imports each year from the Persian Gulf states

It's completely doable. And, if Bush wants to, he can can call the mileage increase the "Freedom Increase", or something like that, so he feels all warm and fuzzy about it.


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