Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 33
Aug. 17-23, 2000
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4x4 Hippos Hog Our Resources

What the whole debate boils down to is jealousy of lifestyle.

-James Hall: Editor Guns & Gear

The whole debate in this instance is focused on those intimidating, gas-guzzling behemoths better known as sports utility vehicles. SUVs.

And James Hall should know better. He's top dog of a fine and interesting outdoor publication that provides updates on shooting sports and all the paraphernalia associated with those whose bullets, shots or broadheads are fired at wildlife or targets.

Perhaps such words were printed in his publication in hopes of building a broader advertising base - after all Guns & Gear hasn't been around very long - and even the old established outdoor magazines don't have it easy getting ads these days. But that's no excuse.

Curiously, Guns & Gear is one of a batch of publications owned by B.A.S.S., an organization of hundreds of thousands of fishermen, the biggest angling club in the world, and one that is never reluctant to blow its horn about what it is doing to make waters cleaner and filled with more fish.

The Many Sins of SUVs

For an outdoor publication not just to defend excessive fossil fuel consumption but actually to promote it is akin to watching a big SUV lumbering by with a Save the Bay sticker on its rear bumper. Talk about an oxymoron: Is that little bumper sticker expected to cleanse from burned fuel all the lead and other contaminants that will eventually fall back to earth to foul our waters and kill our fish?

And, I might add, stunt and destroy our trees and pollute our marshlands, both of which are important to hunters. Also involved is the disgraceful waste of a non-renewable natural resource: oil. How about global warming? Or melting icebergs raising sea levels, degrading the atmosphere and earth's ozone shield?

If such catastrophes sound too far down the road - something for future generations to worry about - we can just take a gander at the price posted at fuel pumps along the highway.

Or check out the price per gallon of heating oil listed on the contract presented by the guy who fills the tanks that flow into the household furnace during the winter months.

This is now. This is not that day in the distant (maybe not-too-distant) future when you and I will be long gone. Seeing that each gallon of gasoline burned in a vehicle sends 25 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, you can imagine what things will be like then.
Pay Now, Pay Later

To this writer, it looks like a pay-now, pay-later arrangement. We pay now at the pump, whether it be at the self-service station or from the household fuel delivery truck. Then our descendants pay later as they try to breathe while moving inland to escape rising sea levels. That is, if they survive cancer and all the maladies associated with the sun's devastating rays as the atmosphere sours.

Here in the good old US of A, we condemn Brazil for chopping down its rain forests, Russia for its recklessness in producing nuclear power, China and Africa for all kinds of environmental deficiencies, Africa for dumping at sea, Japan for killing whales - and who knows where else and what else for other ecological crimes. Yet here in that same good old US of A, we gobble up 918,200,000 tons of oil each year, which is equal to the consumption of Japan, China, Germany, Russia, Canada and half the United Kingdom combined.

The residue of all of that consumption ends up on our lands, our waters and our atmosphere. And we drive around pointing fingers in every which direction. Perhaps we should turn our hands around and eyeball the tip of our own forefinger. Especially those who drive SUVs, mini vans and pickup trucks that gulp the gasoline and diesel stuff at an average of more than a gallon every 22 miles.

But that would be opening a can of worms, seeing that nearly half the vehicles sold today are SUVs, mini vans and pickups, most of which don't get that many miles to the gallon.
The Lifestyle Thing

Hey, this can get to be an awfully touchy subject. Most of my friends who preach about the environment gallop around in SUVs big enough to accommodate a whole hockey team with all its gear - and the most they ever pack in them are a week's worth of groceries, or perhaps several satchels for a visit to Aunt Tillie.

Of course there are some who need all that space and/or power. They might tow boats or camping trailers. Maybe they serve as jitneys for all the soccer moms in the neighborhood. But let's admit it. Most could get along with little, if any, inconvenience by driving something less demanding at the pumps.

Some might argue they need the four-wheel drive that comes with most SUVs and many pickups because they've got to get to work when the snowflakes fall. Yet we all know that in these times when enough of the white stuff falls that we have to brush it off the windshield, half the places of employment shut down.

We also know that four-wheel drive, whether it be all-wheel all the time or on demand, is available in smaller vehicles that average more than 22 miles per gallon and perform admirably on the road, even in blizzards. But many like to think big: Big is better, big is more impressive, big can intimidate others on the road. To hell with fuel consumption and its impact on the environment. That's way down the road.

Editor James Hall, obviously a young man judging by his picture, is half right. There is a lifestyle involved, but all of us who take a dim view of all those thirsty behemoths on the road are not jealous. Many of us could be driving one of those rigs were it not for our respect for the environment. Our conscience.

We have the fulfillment of knowing we are doing our bit, but little other satisfaction than watching the $-digits whirl by on the pump next to us where the macho guy with the 7,600-pound Ford Excursion is filling her up to satisfy the thirst of a 12.5 miles per gallon powerplant. Methinks 10 of those mastodons could contaminate the entire Patuxent.

Fuel prices are dictated by supply and demand, best known as profit to the refineries, and the more inefficient Goliaths on the road, the greater the demand. The more not only their owners pay, but we also pay.

We pay another way, too. Should something go wrong on the highway, the high bumpers and extra tonnage of those inefficient King Kongs not only do in our vehicles but threaten our lives and limbs. And they tell us "If you want to be safe, get one, too."

If we did, think of what fuel prices would be, what the atmosphere and the rest of our environment would be - and how long the earth's oil reserves would last.

In the eyes of the owners of 4x4 hippos, we're the nerds, but we like the blue in the sky and in the water, and with clear conscience can put a Save the Bay bumper sticker on the family jalopy. Enough said

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly