I Love My SUV

Ray Keating I’ve never been a car guy. I don’t change my own oil. In fact, when looking under the hood, I’m completely lost. However, since the purchase of a family vehicle a few years ago, I’ve become rather passionate. I am head-over-heels in love with my SUV.

Whenever I get into the driver’s seat, it feels good. Why? Well, there are several reasons. I’m a big guy, so the comfort is nice. As a dad in suburbia, the room for kids and home-related stuff is ideal.

When it comes to my wife and children, safety is of paramount concern. Riding higher in an SUV improves my ability to see what’s going on around me while on the road. More critically, though, is size and weight. As countless studies have shown, all other things being equal, bigger and heavier vehicles are far safer than smaller, lighter ones.

In addition, I know the SUV is the vehicle of choice for some small business owners, who also need the space, appreciate the safety, and sometimes must have the power provided by many SUVs. As the chief economist for a small business advocacy group, I’m in tune with these entrepreneurs.

But I must confess that there is another reason for my romance with the SUV. Environmental extremists and other left wingers hate SUVs. It drives them crazy that the number of trucks bought by U.S. consumers actually exceeded the number of cars for the first time in 2001. Though it may not be the most charitable impulse, I enjoy contributing to this liberal angst. But then again, the left specializes in trying to create crises and angst among the masses.

In recent years, of course, lefties have gotten themselves all hot and bothered over so-called “global warming.” There lies the genesis of their hostility directed at SUVs. They assert that man’s actions, including driving lots of SUVs, are causing global temperatures to rise, and predict nothing less than climatic catastrophe. Fortunately, such rantings have very little to do with reality.

For example, contrary to claims that the science supporting the global warming thesis is conclusive, there actually are widespread differing views among scientists as to whether or not global warming actually is occurring. And among those who see some warming trend, significant dispute exists as to the causes, including mankind’s possible contributions or lack thereof.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that wild predictions of environmental apocalypse in the past have not come true. Remember global cooling?

Meanwhile, our elected officials need to stay rooted in reality, and not be swayed by zealots. Lots of people – from families to small business owners – find value in purchasing SUVs. And these vehicles do not pose any added threat to the environment. So, no reason exists to punish SUV owners by, for example, further hiking CAFE standards (which result in smaller, lighter, and more dangerous vehicles) or raising taxes on SUV purchases made by small businesses, as some in Congress would like to do.

As for me, when it comes time to replace our other family car, we’ll be getting another SUV. But there will be a change. Our next SUV will be even bigger. I sense another, even deeper romance developing soon. Ain’t love beautiful?

Raymond J. Keating serves as chief economist for the Small Business Survival Committee.

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