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January, 2006


Marin's Cooling Love Affair With SUVs
By Marie Shegenthaler

In a place as wealthy as Marin it is no secret that we tend to compromise our liberal tendencies for luxuries that are less-than healthy. Indeed, one could easily count more SUVs on our roads than cars. However, as gasoline prices underwent a steady increase during the summer months, there was a decrease in the number of SUVs being bought. The prices of gasoline limited guzzler sales and perhaps saved us from ourselves. The grateful environmentalists let out a sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, we'd taken a major step in saving our atmosphere merely by making better, more informed choices. Would this change be the first in a series of national enlightenment?
Alas, wistful thinking of the optimistic hippy. The factor that encouraged this change of heart is none other than the gas price board. The general reason for most families was because the price of gas was simply too much. Not even a Suburban to truck around soccer kids could make up for the $80 a pop it costs to fill the tank.

However, with the sudden almost exponential decline in gas prices, one must ponder the offspringing results of this decrease.

While the States might not be peopled enough to worry about such menial things as space and congestion, how long will this last? Europe is already shocked at the number of cars on American roads, most of which carry only one passenger. How long will it be before we are forced to resort to more ecologic ways?

As it is in the nature of humans to think about instant gratification and ignore the long-term effects until the last second, the issue looms only closer. We can only guess how long before the poison that's been seeping into our atmosphere takes effect on our health and environment.

Will we revert back to our old cement-grinding, global-warming ways? The United States, being fairly wealthy and having the resources to temporarily fuel larger automobiles, can accommodate SUV-filled suburbs economically. Such large cars, in addition to holding esteem in American society and symbolism in our culture, are fashionable. In a capitalist state such as ours, bigger is better.

But what effect is this capitalist theory having on our little-considered environment?

It's no news to anyone that any combustion of fossil fuels or petroleum produces smog. Problems with smog cause nasty health effects on the respiratory and nervous systems and can be attributed to heart failure from lack of oxygen. This also causes acid deposition through rain, sleet, snow, and through dry deposition. Not to mention that released CO2 is thickening an already too-thick blanket of greenhouse gases that is rapidly melting our ice caps and raising our sea levels. Obviously, these guzzlers are doing more bad than good.

The limiting factor was once the cost of gas. But now that gas prices are dropping, what is to save us from ourselves? The answer is that only we can. We can support the forward movement of technology by boycotting muscle cars and opening our roads and garages to more efficient models.

But will we? If you are in the market for a car, consider carefully. If you can accommodate an efficient car such as a hybrid, purchase one. If you require an automobile of more epic proportions to maneuver the rugged terrain of suburbia or West Marin roads, a tank is recommend.

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