Calling all SUV drivers

One of the things that instantly attracted me to Chris Huhne’s leadership bid was that from that first hustings meeting at the LSE, he had clearly got global warming right at the top of his agenda – where it belongs. Now there has to be a debate about how we tackle the problem. Chris has proposed greater taxation for burning fossil fuels, but with the proceeds being used to help the less well off. The logic is brilliantly simple, although admittedly there are detail questions about how you avoid coming down too hard on those who have no choice but to burn the fossil fuels in the first place – the obvious example is those who live in rural communities with poor public transport options. But none of these objections is insurmountable – as long as the detail is carefully worked out. I do understand that none of us wants to pay more for our fuel – but increasingly science accepts that doing nothing is not an option.
Which brings me neatly on to SUVs. Petrol and diesel are already expensive in this country. A few years ago, car adverts were crammed with headlines about how economical this or that model was. Low fuel consumption was a major selling point. Now I haven’t done any in depth research, but these things are breeding here in the South East. I have recently been canvassing for the Greater Marlow by election, and have been shocked to find some well heeled cul-de-sacs with one of these fuel guzzling monsters on nearly every drive. Two in some cases! If I have to go into London for work, and it’s not snowing, I often take my bike and thread my way through the lines of stationary traffic on the A40. These poor souls queue up every morning on a road that runs parallel to a major railway line and a tube line fuming (in both senses of the word) as we bikers slip between them on our way into London. Again, the numbers of king-size SUVs are definitely on the increase. You can’t miss the on a bike – some of them are so wide you are reduced to waddling between them with your feet down. Why do they need to be so big? These are clearly impressive vehicles that could cope easily with some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. These marvels of engineering are instead reduced to stop-starting around London’s streets belching out tonnes of CO2 as their drivers try to cope with the frustration. And the bull bars – two inch thick bull bars protect the front of many of these go anywhere gargantuans – what the hell do they need them for?
I am really desperate to know why these cars are becoming so popular. Please would anyone who owns one of these like to tell me how you reached your buying decision? What made you choose an eight wheel drive earth mover when a car would have done? I wholeheartedly endorse using the tax system to try and encourage more responsible use of fuel, but my sincere worry is that some people clearly have more money than sense!

8 thoughts on “Calling all SUV drivers”

  1. Steve, I am someone who does not own a car – and I rather like travelling on public transport. For me, travelling is an opportunity to read, which I rather like.

    Having said that, SUVs are like any other stylised cars. They are fashionable, they are – to certain an extent – practical (large volume, good fir kids etc), and they are considered to be ‘safe’ (hugh off the ground, big bumpers etc). I can understand why people like them, even though I doubt I will ever want to own one.

    But the broader point about eco-taxes is that they will make bugger all difference to the environment. Global warming is global! The Chinese have just discovered the joys of motoring!

    Can you explain how marginal environmental taxes will stop our seemingly inexorable slide towards significant climate change? Because if you can’t, I fail to see why we should econmically suffer in the meantime.

  2. SUVs: They are fashionable… simple as that. You must have the latest greatest so you can outdo your neighbour…
    Personally I think they’re ugly, but I don’t drive…

    Simon: I think that it is important for us to try and take a lead on reduction of greenhouse gasses. It may not make much of a dent on the global scale, but if we can show its possible to cut emmissions and not dent our economy (or even improve the economy) other countries will hopefully follow our lead.

    We need to act on a local and a global scale for this problem to be solved, otherwise we get into a global ‘they don’t so why should I?’ debate and in the meantime things get even worse.

  3. Tristan, couldn’t have put it better myself. Simon, I’m worried that you seem to be so defeatist on global warming. Action needs to be taken by every individual – and that means questioning every bit of energy use in our homes and businesses. If everyone bought a home wind turbine or installed solar panels, it would make a big difference. A good government could facilitate and encourage such things. Perhaps the revenue from carbon taxes could be used to subsidise micro generation? China and the US are big worries in the global carbon stakes. Last time I publicly criticised the US record on carbon emissions, I was bombarded with emails from Americans, banging on about their constitutional freedoms and even suggesting that global warming was ‘an invention of the EU to try to hamstring the US economy’! The fact is that global warming is a real and present threat to our childrens’ future – and I don’t find it acceptable to sit on the sidelines and complain that the problem is too difficult to tackle. We can do much more to influence other countries’ behaviour if we put our own house in order. Oh, and if SUV buying is about safety – perhaps APCs or tanks will be the next fad? Your not going to get hurt in a Challenger (never mind any poor sod you run over)

  4. I noticed quite by accident the other day a program on Channel 4 called “The OC”. In it the main characters – a couple of 17 year old kidsdrive around in a Range Rover Vogue.

    When it became clear that smoking was something people didn’t want encouraged there were campaigns involving writing to all the studios demanding that they stop portraying smoking characters, especially in a positive light.

    So yes, they are trendy, but trends can be changed and not just by the actual end consumer of a product. We should put pressure on those who portray eco-unfriendly activity in a positive light to stop doing so.

  5. Steve, do you think Chris is really as “green” as he appears? Click over to He is helping to finance an Egyptian Gold and metals miner – “Centamin Egypt”. Gold ore has to be smelted and smelting makes carbon dioxide (lots of it!). It looks to me as though all this is just a cynical ateempt to grab the leadership from real greenies like Hughes…


  6. This is an easy one. Our family owns an XC90 because it has seven seats, pure and simple.

    We have three kids, and need the seats and storage. They’re also safe due to the 4-wheel drive, something we prize after having lost a rear-wheel car due to black ice on an ungritted motorway junction (J4 M40) causing us to slide off into trees whilst travelling at just 20mph.

    Forget fashion – haven’t even considered it. It was the only car to do the job – carry lots of people in comfort and safety.

  7. Anonymous – many thanks for answering the question! I admit I was being deliberately provocative, as I don’t actually have it in for 4×4 owners per se. My real concern is more about the responsibilities of car manufacturers not taking global warming seriously enough. I too have a large family, and therefore own a seven seater car. It is (for it’s size) economical and has scored well in safety tests, although it is not a 4 wheel drive and only has a 2 litre engine. I believe that car manufacturers are more than capable of building safe cars for large families, but do not accept that engine size and fuel consumption have to go through the roof to achieve safetly. I fully understand your concern for the safety of your family – but also urge parents to consider that our children will inherit the environment we create for them.

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