Hummerdingers

[sent to CCM list, after someone brought up the discredited “hybrid worse than hummer” meme.]

The true costs of such a vehicle to society do not stop and end at
fuel consumption and/or battery manufacture (note that all cars have
poisonous batteries). An H2 weighs three times as much as a Prius, and
the manufacture and transport of those 2.5 additional tons of steel
(etc.) have a tremendous environmental cost as well.

As I’ve said in previous listserv discussions on similar subjects,
large SUVs tax our society in many other disastrous ways. Their heavy
weight exacts a tremendous toll on the roads we all pay to maintain:
an H2 puts 81 times more wear and tear on a road than a Prius. Their
ponderous heft further adds to maddening traffic congestion: a large
SUV takes up as much road space-time as 2.5 small cars, while probably
not carrying any more people. Their larger size requires more pavement
for parking; “van” parking spaces are 52% larger than “compact car”
spaces. Their huge engines run dirtier, spewing out more
lung-deadening particulate matter and requiring vastly greater
quantities of toxins like antifreeze. Their higher fuel consumption
doesn’t just emit carbon, it contributes that much more to the global
human and ecological calamities that accompany every single stage of
the petroleum “production” process, from “Cancer Alley” to drowned
seals in Prudhoe Bay to low-grade civil wars in Ogoniland and Basra.
Large SUVs have much higher “kill rates”: a single Chevy Tahoes will
kill as many people (per 1M vehicles) as six Honda Accords; they lack
basic safety features like bumpers, have exponentially larger blind
spots, and block visibility for other road users.

I find it particularly astonishing that a bicyclist would make excuses
on behalf of Hummers, since the high, flat, rigid fronts, heavy
weight, and powerful engines of these menaces make them nearly ideal
weapons for murdering pedestrians and bicyclists: at the same impact
speed, a large SUV is almost three times more likely to kill a
pedestrian upon impact than a regular car.

And then there’s the unquantifiable cost to our society’s bonds levied
by the sheer antisocial (nay, sociopathic) nature of the Hummer: its
cheap trivializing of this “war” thing, its coarse celebration of
vainglorious overconsumption, and the disturbing desire to market to
drivers seeking to strike (rightly deserved, given the “kill rate”)
fear into the hearts of those with whom s/he is supposedly “sharing
the road.”

(Let me interrupt this narrative to say that no one need doubt my
dislike of all cars, be they big, small, short, tall, whatever. I have
never driven a car, nor even learned how. However, I reserve greater
scorn for large SUVs — proportional, one might say, to the size and
the social cost of the car itself.)

On 5/15/06, T.C. O’Rourke wrote:
While young, idealistic Americans die in the process
of killing non-Americans to secure a dwindling
resource, Hummer drivers choose to squander said
resource needlessly.

…while simultaneously mocking said bravery, dressing up civilian
playthings (in this case, a Chevy Tahoe) as battlefield equipment,
even while hundreds of troops have died inside their Humvees for want
of adequate armor and equipment

A Hummer on its way to Vegas or the Hamptons “honors the troops” the
same way Marie Antoinette “honored” the starving peasants by playing a
shepherdess for the afternoon, then retired to a supper of foie gras
and cake.

“The distance between the war in Iraq and the absence of any trace of
it at home, which owning a Humvee is somehow meant to close, is in
fact epitomized by it. It is only in a nation that has been completely
insulated from war’s effects that a vehicle of war could become a
trophy for the rich. It’s not enough that those who most enjoy the
benefits and freedoms of this country serve it the least. Now they’ve
made leisure rides of the war machines used by those who serve. The
reluctance to abide any measure that might constrain personal
autonomy, the conflation of rights and duties — it’s all there in one
vehicle.” — Lawrence Kaplan, The New Republic, 22 Feb 2006

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