Gas Gluttony

Until a few weeks ago, SUV fanatics could only imagine it. Their dream machine would stand nine feet tall, stretch to over 21 feet long and weigh seven tons. But most importantly, it would scoff

Until a few weeks ago, SUV fanatics could only imagine it. Their dream machine would stand nine feet tall, stretch to over 21 feet long and weigh seven tons. But most importantly, it would scoff in the face of fuel economy.

Now, thanks to Navistar, that dream has finally come true. The new CXT is being sold to the general public; the monster-truck gets less than 10 miles-per-gallon.

Though the “commercial extreme truck” will only make a small dent in the SUV market due to its exorbitant price (around $100,000) and its ridiculous dimensions, what the CXT exemplifies is the uniquely American infatuation with unnecessarily harmful automobiles.

Navistar’s creation is just the latest example of America’s contradictory nature when it comes to vehicles. Many argue that the U.S. must become less dependent on foreign oil. But Americans continue to fire up their Hummers, Chevy Avalanches and Ford F-350s, undoubtedly contributing to more oil consumption and its subsequent dependency problems.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Overview of U.S. Petroleum Trade, the percent of imported oil consumed by the U.S. has risen from 58.2% to 61.7% during the past four years.

U.S. citizens vow that they appreciate breathing clean air. Yet, an article posted on cites a study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy that concluded oversized SUVs emit roughly “50 percent more carbon dioxide that the average vehicle, and that driving a Ford Excursion versus an average car increases annual CO2 emissions by 5.7 tons.”

The simple remedy, though often overlooked by American consumers, is to purchase more fuel efficient cars and to demand stricter emissions regulations. The automobile industry has taken steps to offer some enticing environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-guzzling SUVs, but some automobile manufactures vehemently oppose a tough emissions standard.

Last week, the California Air Resources Board unanimously passed new regulations that will drastically reduce harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. Under the new law, manufactures will have to cut emissions from trucks and SUVs by 18 percent, while new cars will have their emissions slashed by 25 percent.

But the automobile industry is threatening to challenge the ruling in court, claiming that the new standards would boost car prices by $3,000 and would only have a marginal effect on the environment.

Members of the industry also decry the fact that introducing or improving alternative forms of fuel would be extremely complicated. Gloria J. Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the feat would be, “almost as complicated as developing the first automobile.”

Bergquist failed to mention that gas/electric hybrids have been on the market for years. Honda, Toyota, Ford and General Motors have all released, or are currently working on releasing hybrid models.

An SUV model by Lexus is selling in record numbers, and DaimlerChrysler will release its “smart” cars in the U.S., including a brand new SUV model that can attain almost 60 miles-per-gallon by 2006.

The state of affairs for increasing fuel efficiency isn’t all that bad. But the automobile industry executives and consumers opposed to environmentally friendly vehicles need a paradigm shift.

What is perceived as dominant, rugged and tough in the American car market will ultimately deplete finite fossil fuel resources and harm the environment. Car buyers may crave the persona of being strong and powerful, but eventually consumers need to realize that even the toughest of the tough need to breathe.

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