Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

SUVs = Seriously Unenvironmental vehicles

The Guardian is carrying a story in its G2 section about SUVs and how they’re damaging the environment. For the unitiated, an SUV is a Sports Utility Vehicle, a kind-of van-cum-4×4, and they’re popular in the States where fuel is cheap and they’re fashionable.
And they drink fule like Johnny Vegas drinks alcohol. Some of them have a fuel comsumption rate of a mere 12mpg (compared with 40 on my parents’ Ford Focus Zetec). But since fuel is cheap over there (about 4 times cheaper than UK prices or something ridiculous like that), running a more efficient car doesn’t save that much money – perhaps about $120 annually.
There’s some interesting quotes from Ron DeFore, the communications director of SUV Owners of America, including the claim that inefficiency doesn’t matter because SUVs are safer and therefore what we lose in environmental damage we gain in retained human life. Yeah. Try telling that to the trees and animals.
And our good friend Jerry Falwell pops up too. Apparently he’s in the pro-SUV camp because he believes that global warming does not exist because ‘God would not let that happen’. Okay then.


  1. Quite true. Gas is actually getting quite expensive here in the States but it’s likely still cheaper than in Europe I’m afraid. And you’re going to save a lot more than 120 dollars anually on gas with a Ford Focus or something similar (that’s a car I’d really like myself, actually). However, some people obviously don’t care. And it sucks, for many reasons. For one thing, people in such large vehicles get complacent. Not conciously, perhaps, but psychologically speaking they have fewer reasons to be defensive. I don’t know how many times I’ve nearly been driven off the road by some 98 pound little housewife driving a 5 ton SUV and yakking on a cell phone. Blehhh!
    I’m not sure if this is true but I read that the genesis of the modern SUV is a loophole of sorts. The US government passed fuel efficiency and emissions requirements for cars, so that large station wagons and sedans suddenly were either illegal to make or uncomfortably close to the limits of size/economy. However, these laws apply to cars, not trucks, and since SUVs use truck chassis, that’s “officially” what they qualify as, so they can guzzle gas and pollute all they care to. Automakers were quite happy to exploit this loophole, as they can sell larger more expensive vehicles to average families now. Profit profit!
    Bleh again… Frankly we were better off with big Caddillacs and boxy station wagons. At least they don’t ride up over your hood and decapitate you in a collision! At any rate I hope you don’t get the impression that all Americans love SUVs. Many of us recognize what dangerous wastes of money and resources they are.

  2. Thanks for that, it was very insightful.