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Rage Against the SUV
Emily Gertz, 19 May 05

gp_climatecrime.jpgWhile the raison d'etre of WorldChanging is to focus on the positive, I'm always susceptible to the charms of a good, non-violent, visually appealing environmental protest action. SUVs, with their magnetic combination of ostentatious materialism and fuel over-consumption, continue to inspire all sorts of creative resistance:

- On Monday, 35 Greenpeacers infiltrated and halted a Land Rover production line in Solihull, England. "After they had stripped down to the orange boiler suits, each activist handcuffed themselves to a Range Rover Sport. (They chose the Sport rather than the Defender, also produced at Solihull, because it is an SUV marketed for urban use, as a lifestyle choice. Defenders are mostly used, legitimately, as Greenpeace see it, in the countryside.)"

- FUH2 is inviting folks to send photos of themselves flipping off hummers in order "to actively change the mind of the consumer against his or her will by making consumption of the product uncomfortable and undesirable."

These build on mediagenic efforts of the past few years, like Earth on Empty's Earth Violation parking tickets, I Don't Care About the Air's archive of anti-SUV editorial cartoons, The Detroit Project's slick tv ads prodding Big Auto to build hybrids and increase fuel efficiency, and the now-classic Evangelical Christian environmental campaign, What Would Jesus Drive?

Update: Reader odograph points us at this disheartening, but not surprising, update from Green Car Congress -- the U.S. Senate Energy Committee on Wednesday rejected an amendment to the national Energy bill, which would have required much higher fuel efficiency for SUVs and light trucks. Stock up on those Earth Violation tickets, folks.

GCC's Mike Millikin recaps the Week in Sustainable Transportation here on WorldChanging every Sunday.

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Green Car Congress informs us today that:

"The Senate Energy Committee, which is currently drafting the Senate’s version of the national Energy bill, on Wednesday voted 7-15 to reject an amendment to increase fuel efficiency standards for light trucks and SUVs.

Under the failed proposal offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), SUVs and other light trucks would have to meet the same 27.5 mpg rule for passenger cars by 2011, up from a current 21 mpg for light trucks, an increase of 31%."

- more here

I'd say, that if there was one practical thing we could do, it would be to raise a bigger noise about that!

Posted by: odograph on 19 May 05

Great pointer, odo--I'll amend the post so that link is above the comment line. Thanks.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 19 May 05

'Flip Off A Hummer' - funny, but has been doing it for years now - and they have pictures.

Be sure to check out their hate mail as well - flippin' (pun intended) hilarious...

Posted by: Jesse on 19 May 05

hey, where did they get that yellow "climate crime scene" tape? I can think of LOTS of cool visibility stuff to do with THAT. :-)

Posted by: katuah on 19 May 05

This seems like as good a place to pose this dilemma as any: what do you do when you already own an SUV? I inherited a Ford Explorer last year. Never been happy about that fact, but I needed a car and paid nothing for it. I'm seriously thinking about getting rid of it. But then I realize that, while I only drive it tops 50 miles per average week (virtually all city), the average vehicle in America is driven 4 times as many miles in an equal time span. So I'm starting to convince myself that, barring destruction of the vehicle, the best thing I could do is NOT sell it. What do you think? Is this a reasonable strategy, or just a cop-out for someone who's gotten used to the "pilot seat" driving and doesn't want the hassle of selling/buying a vehicle? I'm purposefully ignoring gas price and alternatives (like biking) for the moment.

Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 19 May 05

Great Post! I love flipping off Hummers!
Stephen Fuqua: Keep the Explorer and figure out ways to minimize its use. If you sold it to someone who will use it 3-4 times as much and you bought a more efficient car, the world would be worse off in my opinion. I went through the same quandry recently as I own a full sized pick-up. I have switched to bus-bike for my commute and now I using the truck occasionally for its purpose, about 10-20 miles per week avg.

Posted by: Grant Johnson on 19 May 05

Stephan - I have another idea; see if you can find some friends or collegues in your city who also only need a car sometimes. Share the cost, use it when you need to, don't when you don't. One car to every five (ten?) people is a step in the right direction.

Posted by: justus on 19 May 05

If you want to read a funny/disturbing little anecdote about the experience of actually flipping off a Hummer and getting a response, go here:

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 19 May 05

Oh, and hey, Grant! How's it going? Like the band name.

I still talk with Flem and Steve from time to time. Rumor is you tied the knot and some big lug performed the ceremony on a boat. Or something like that.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 19 May 05

OK, that story is a little scary.

And, FUH2 is clearly the site to watch on the flipping off a Hummer meme.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 19 May 05

Stephen, I agree that the ultimate measure is going to be fuel consumption per captia, and so it's gallons a week for each of us.

That occurred to me when the other Sierra Clubbers were giving my WRX Wagon dirty looks. ;-)

On the other hand, there is some evidence that "miles" driven each year in the US by SUVs is increasing at a faster rate than the overall average at least that's the way I interpreted one spreadsheet given in this Energy Outlook post

Posted by: odograph on 19 May 05

and did I mention that there are some who would give the Hummer a new credit?

Posted by: odograph on 19 May 05

Stephen, I think Grant has the right of it, especially if you are doing what you can to reduce your use of it, and keeping it tuned up so as to avoid "old car syndrome" - when an older, unmaintained vehicle spews way more Bad Stuff than a maintained one.
Also, what kind of mileage does it actually get? I know there are actually quite a few cars that get worse MPG than some SUV's; talk about poor design!

Posted by: katuah on 19 May 05

Howdy Joe!
Yep Flem officiated at my wedding a few years back.
Hope you are doing well.

Posted by: Grant Johnson on 19 May 05

Speaking of fuel mileage, I just finished doing a little research for a friend who's considering getting a new commuter vehicle, so I put together a spreadsheet of all new mass-market vehicles for sale which get at least 30 MPG on average. The list is sorted by retail price (MSRP), low to high.

If anyone wants a copy, I put one here:

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 19 May 05

Thanks for all the feedback!

Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 20 May 05

Nice list, Joseph, thanks for posting it.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 20 May 05

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