Archive for the ‘green week’ Category

The Quintessential American Oxymoron: The Hybrid SUV

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

hybrid logo 

 

This week is “Green Week” on NBC, a television network owned by General Electric, maker of all those fine, sparkly things that makes America the most materialistically enjoyable place to live in the world. On one hand, I have to commend NBC and GE for bringing to light the plight of global climate change and humanity’s role in shaping our changing environment. Several of their programs are adopting a “Green” theme during this weeks broadcasts, even including tips on how individuals can aid in fighting over-consumption and assist in recycling and conservation efforts. This attention being given to environmental issues by a national television network can only help raise awareness of the problems of global climate change and ecological destruction among the general public, and that is a good thing.

On the other hand, I can only shake my head in disbelief as I ponder the seeming hypocrisy of it all. Considering that the creation and delivery of television programming requires the efforts of tens of thousands of people and consumes a great amount of energy in the process, if NBC really wanted to show its audience how best to “Go Green” they’d have pulled the plug for a week and sponsored live, local events targeted towards environmental rejuvenation or other similar projects. They could have encouraged their audience to turn off the TV altogether, thus saving untold amounts of energy that would in turn decrease all sorts of atmospheric pollutants. Now that would have been a true example of “Going Green.”

But they didn’t choose the latter option, instead opting to promote “Green-think” during their programming. And guess what? They managed to get some sponsors to get with their program too. Which brings me around to the topic of this post and a concept I’ll call environmental ludicrousness.

During one of NBC’s reality programs last night, contestants had to vie for a spectacularly shiny prize- a brand new Ford Escape SUV. My first reaction to this major prize was, “Are you freaking kidding me? They’re giving away an SUV during “Green Week?”” But then I quickly remembered where I was. As the show host described the fabulous prize and began to expound on how this was a hybrid vehicle that got up to 34 miles per gallon it was all I could do to keep from falling on the floor in laughter. This brand new 2008 SUV is the American automobile industry’s answer to energy consumption? Christ, I drive a 1995 Mazda 626 with over 240,000 miles on it and it still gets around 30 miles per gallon. When I first bought it in 1998 (with 60,000 miles on it) I was getting closer to 38 miles per gallon on the freeway and at least 35 in the city! And my car isn’t anywhere near being hybrid.

And then it struck me like a two by four in the forehead. American’s don’t really want to do anything serious to solve the problems of the environment, problems we had a big, if not the biggest, hand in exacerbating. American’s only want to pretend we’re doing something. And in that vein…voila! The Hybrid SUV! Want to look worried about the environment without sacrificing your roomy vehicle and oversized cupholders? No problem- just jump in the Hybrid SUV! Only in America, I guess…

The fact that most SUV owners have about as much need for an oversized fuel guzzler as I have for my own personal Sherman tank is very much the point, but one that is missed completely in the land of the free and the home of the brave. After all, being American by definition means having whatever the hell you want regardless of the consequences. And when the consequences add up to melting icecaps that you’ll never see anyhow, it doesn’t seem like there are consequences at all, right? So why not buy the biggest, most fuel-inefficient vehicle you can to haul your solo self around the block for another 6-pack of Diet Coke? This is America!

Other countries have different domestic travel dynamics, and as such have incorporated into their national transportation systems many forms of competent public transportation options. Many countries are small in comparison with the United States, and as such have less ‘long-distance” travel internally. Many more countries are economically poor to the point that having personal transportation is considered a high luxury. In the United States, we have a lot of territory and good incomes, so we have highways and personal vehicles. And for decades, we’ve also had cheap gasoline to power our personal vehicles. These factors have helped make us an automobile nation, and even if we had a national desire to change that fact, our infrastructure is designed on the predicate that people travel to get anywhere. So in order to make adjustments in this environmentally challenged age of ours, we’ll have to make significant changes to our personal transportation models. And the Hybrid SUV just doesn’t cut it folks. It’s not even a good effort.

If appearances were all that mattered, America would reign as king forever. But hypocrisy has a way of catching up. Fuel prices are closing in on $100 per barrel of oil, and gasoline in America is starting to approach prices that have been known in Europe and Asia for decades. And yet American consumers are being told to trade in their old gas-guzzling SUV’s for what? A smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle like the Smart Car? Nonsense! Here’s a brand new SUV model for you- a Hybrid, no less- and it gets great mileage too!

Well, actually folks, it gets mileage comparable to that of foreign cars built a dozen years ago. But don’t think about that. If you’re too busy pondering the depths of the BS you’ve been happily fed forever, you might miss your exit to the gas station. And your new Hybrid SUV is getting pretty thirsty- again.

 

(cross posted at Common Sense)


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