Monday, June 2, 2008

Tough Luck, Suckers

When I came cack to the United States after several years of studying in Belgium in the early 1990s, I was amazed by the number of Americans who had suddenly taken to driving SUVs. After all, in Europe people were more than content to get around in their small, fuel-efficient cars or to use mass transportation if they had to travel longer distances.

Because of the unsustainably low price of gas, however, Americans wanted to drive huge, gas-guzzling monstrosities that would allow them to dominate other drivers on the road (In some cases, the choice of an excessively large SUV may have also been an attempt by some insecure men to make up for inadequacies in other areas...but we can leave that sort of speculation to mental health professionals). In buying these idiotic vehicles, no one ever bothered to think for one moment about the impact that driving an SUV would have on the planet. Nor did many Americans reflect upon the fact that gas prices would eventually have to rise due to diminishing oil reserves and increasing demand for oil from other parts of the world (i.e., China and India). As in the case of the housing crisis, the shortsighted dolts who needed the drive these planet-killing machines deluded themselves into thinking that they could have it all, and that there were no personal or social consequences to be paid for their sheer stupidity and greed.

But now the hens have come home to roost. With gas prices hovering around $4.00 a gallon, all of a sudden soccer moms and their macho suburban husbands have come to realize that their prize SUVs, which in the past had given them such tremendous feelings of power on the road, are actually financial liabilities, threatening to bankrupt their already financially overextended families. And, try as they might, they can't sell these behemoths, because their less shallow countrymen are looking to buy hybrids and other smaller fuel-efficient vehicles in an age where gas prices can only keep increasing.

The one consolation that SUV owners still have, however, is that they will still have the biggest and most powerful toys on the road. And spending $100 to fill up your tank is a small price to pay to help SUV owners overcome the feelings of inferiority that led them to buy these idiotic vehicles in the first place. Sometimes size does matter. But that will be a small consolation when it comes to choosing between filling up your SUV at the pump and paying your mortgage. Life really is unfair, isn't it!


  1. When Michael Corleone returned from Sicily the five families had settled the war. Boy, what a great time to go to Europe, the early nineties when American cites were becoming large ghettos and the economy was crashing. I bet there were a lot of academic types who retreated to the safety of European at that time only to return home to the land of their birth to solve all of America's problems, alas though I digress.
    While I don't disagree with your feeling about larger than necessary vehicles I believe your assumptions as to the reasons why people purchased them are ridiculous. In all that spewing have you put any thought as to why the "soccer mom" might need a large vehicle. Here is a hint she may have soccer kids who are mandated to wear seatbelts. If Mrs. Soccer has had the nerve to have more than the politically correct two children then she may need more room than my Ford Taurus provides for her. I'm sure she should be shamed even more if she has been so bold as to have had children and by God's (can I say God here) grace she has a multiple birth, I guess she should stay home.

    I love the liberal answer to everything cut and run and paint with a brush. There are people out there who actually need something bigger than a Smart car and when people fled from the cities many of them had no choice and left with a broken heart. Life in suburbia requires a car or two depending on the size of your family. Although I can find no good reason to for anyone in Long Island to drive a Hummer, the gas "shortage" was not caused by these vehicles. I doubt if there is a shortage or maybe once again government and business are in bed and need to market a new product or force some kind of sociological change. Interestingly enough GMC announced that they have reached a deal with the Autoworkers Union to buyout older worker and start new workers at $14.50 an hour, this due to slumping sales. My conspiracy laden mind says once all the old Union pacts are changed gas will flow and cars will sell.

    Personally I gravitate more to the trains, a city kid and the grandson of a track worker it just seems right. But I still need to get to the station. I have a left wing idea - how about work buses like school buses so the government can make sure I make it to work and then I can be limited to one car for my household. Check that they tried that in the USSR and it failed.

  2. So, what's your complaint??? You are living an ecologically responsible lifestyle in NYC using mass transportation and probably living in a much more energy-efficient home than any suburbanite. Congratulations on helping to save the plant.

    My wife and I, unfortunately, have to live in suburbia (not by choice, but because of economic necessity), but we sensibly chose to buy the most fuel-efficient cars on the market. We have a 13 year old Toyota Carolla and a seven year old Honda Civic. Both get fabulous gas millage rates and still drive extremely well. When we eventually do need a new car--which I anticipate won't be for quite a long time--we will pay a bit more for a hybrid.

    I also made the rational choice 10 years ago to live no more than 15 minutes from where I work, even though this meant that we could not buy a home in one of the newer sprawling communities with larger homes on eastern Long Island.

    People make moral choices all the time. If some folks unwisely--and in my opinion immorally--chose to live beyond their means, with no thought to the impact that their lifestyles have on the environment--then they must bare with the consequences of their foolish decisions.

    My only hope is that Americans will finally begin to embrace the more modest and ecologically sustainable lifestyles of Europeans (and the vast majority of people in places like Brooklyn and Queens) and learn to live more sustainably.....To live, in other words, more like you, Bklyn Dem!

  3. People in Europe don't live that way becasue it is eco-friendly, they do it because they had to, hence the reason some of them crossed the ocean and settled here. This is the same way is why some many people left the cities, they had to and not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to live 15 minutes form work. Ahh you are a truly fortunate globe trotter, but some folks had to buy homes a long way from work becuase that is all they could afford being that houses close to the city were outside thier price range. The recent phenomenon of living 130% of ones income is irresponsible but remember the entire country was doing that when Clinton "tripled" the stock market and freed up retirement funds for investment. Don't be quick to judge today waht began yesterday, nobody saw he reniassance of the American city prior to Guliani imposing his will on NYC and setting the temptplate. So many folks moved way out to start safer and better lives for thier families and I can't blame then for that. Recently I was in a Philosphy class and we were discussing the Bernard Geotz case and one young chap was disgusted as to the outcome probably because he never rode a subway in the early 80's but thought it proper to judge by today's standards. You are doing the same thing many folks could stay in the cities and now have to travel and unfortunately thier work doesn't allow for convient train travel. I do my bit for the enviromant but I am still agnostic as to the effects but I don't think Europe is a good role model. The entire continent only acts out of necessity not vision and how is that Toyota still on the road you must have a guy who gets you the inspection

  4. Bklyn dem is absolutely correct. Just because you have made the decision to deprive yourself of some of the great things that American society has to offer (a comfy SUV and a big house in the outer burbs), doesn't mean that everyone has to follow your rigid moral dictates. There are those of us who believe that American ingenuity will allow us to solve our ecological problems without having to force Americans to abandon those things which make life worth living. You are simply too damned pessimistic about the potential of American capitalism to come up with new technology that doesn't depend upon fossil fuels.

    Finally, if you find American society so morally repugnant, why don't you simply go back to Europe. You clearly are much more in tune with European values than you are with Americans ones.

  5. I agree with Mike. It's time for Americans to get over our selfish, materialistic attitudes, and start thinking about the long-term health of the entire planet.

    Bklyn Dem and Narcissus seem content to rape the planet for as long as possible and leave it to the next generation to solve all of the problems that we have created. What kind of moral attitude is that?

  6. Sara I guess you didn't read my post and since when did the size of the house you purchase become a morals issue. Besides we don't have time or space here to debate the raping of the planet and how it's being done. I do suspect that your morality started with MTV and is now dictated by pop stars, maybe you should grab a glove and get in the game before you make such silly accussation

  7. I agree that there is an unnecessary amount of SUVs dominating the roads. However many of these SUVs are being used for good reason. Soccer moms and other sports players need the extra room in their cars to carry excess equipment and, possibly, other teammates. SUVs may also be beneficial by using less fuel in the process of car pooling.


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