The Politics of Cars



In the past several decades, the public consciousness has been challenged on the subjects of vehicle ownership and safety, some of it under the guise of religion, and most of it from various small groups with various political agendas.  Since these groups have been particularly vocal, people have been loudly and wrongly encouraged to purchase “politically correct” vehicles (“politically correct” being defined by the small vocal groups, which, by definition, is what someone else thinks we all should drive, no matter what our needs are).  The goal of these groups is to convince you that buying one type of vehicle of another is either sinful or unpatriotic.  This chapter is written to help you to wade through the barrage.  It is for information only, but the goal is to suggest that you disregard politics and purchase what your transportation needs dictate.


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Chevrolet Corvair
Historically, the first challenge came from Ralph Nader in his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, in which he declared the Chevrolet Corvair as a turnover waiting to happen.  He was incorrect, probably due to his lack of any experience with cars, but since he bombarded the public with his message in order to make himself famous, the Corvair, which really was a good handling, fuel efficient vehicle for its time, died.





The air pollution problem was the next big political football.  A group of Californians decided to push a bill through the California legislature to force the auto manufacturers to put emissions controls on vehicles destined for California.  The pollution problem is real, but the California bill did not attack the root of the problem.  The people of California, not having an organized lobby, had no chance to defeat the bill, but the truck transportation lobby was able to convince that legislature that work trucks (as in, any truck with a carrying capacity of ¾ ton or greater) and all diesel powered vehicles do not pollute, and should therefore be exempt from the pollution controls.  The resulting lower passenger vehicle fuel mileages did nothing to help the gas crisis of the early 1970s.


To clear things up a little, all internal combustion engines put out pollutants.  There are some internal combustion powered vehicles today that put out so few pollutants, that they are considered by the government as emitting near zero emissions.  The problem that still exists today, just like in the 1960s, is that 5% of the vehicles on the road are contributing 90% of the pollution from vehicle emissions.  The passenger car portion of this 90% are the ones that are either not well maintained or are incorrectly modified by their owners.  Also, even now, the newest diesel powered vehicles are allowed to smoke in our non-smoking environment.  When you go downtown and you smell the fetid air, it is mainly diesel fumes that you smell.


This website will not try to offer a cure all for the pollution problem, but there are some truths that must be faced.  Trucking industry vehicles, construction vehicles, and city transportation vehicles should probably be required to be as environmentally responsible as the rest of us, not just with new vehicle purchases, but with current vehicle maintenance.


The real problem is that there are many people who would like to have efficient running vehicles, but do not have the money to keep up the maintenance.  They need to get to work and back just like the well-to-do people, but since they are having to drive vehicles that are in the twilight of their years, maintenance for their vehicles can be overwhelming.  This is where the pollution discussion should center.  How do we clean the air and still find a way to allow the poorer segments of the population to get around without forcing them into mass transportation that cannot get them where they need to go?


While on the subject of pollution, the environmental lobby has decided that to curb emissions in the cities, speed limits should be lowered.  This has been accomplished in many cities, and the outcome is higher vehicle emissions.  The problem is that our highways can handle a certain amount of vehicles at any given time before traffic gets thick enough to force everybody to slow down for a traffic jam.  With lowered speed limits, vehicles must spend more time on the roads, thereby causing traffic jams for longer periods than with higher speed limits.  Traffic jams are the major cause of excessive vehicle emissions. 




The question has been directed at the SUV driving public that asks what vehicle would Jesus drive, or more specifically, implies that he would never drive an SUV.  (Since he walked most places, that might be the logical conclusion.)  The idea is to make the driving public think that Jesus would a) actually buy a vehicle, and b) would choose a small vehicle.  It is not a smart Text Box:  


thing to do to try to second guess a perfect being, but with thirteen people to haul around, it would seem illogical to try to stuff them all in a Ford Fiesta.  One would hope he would consider a bus, but we are not expert enough to try to accurately predict the actions of The Almighty or those that speak for Him.  He works in mysterious ways, and this website will not engage in predicting His actions for that reason, if for no other.  The prediction is that the people conducting this campaign have about the same expertise as any of the rest of us in predicting what Jesus would drive.




Another equally preposterous charge is that people who drive SUVs are unpatriotic.  With that logic, why would not we consider anyone who drives anything to be unpatriotic?  Where do we draw the line?  Are we unpatriotic if we own a home of more than 800 square feet?  How about if we own a boat?  A second vehicle?  Two TVs?  More than three sets of clothes?


This country thrives on the consumption of goods and services.  It allows us to learn new things, go new places, and meet new people.  If all of us decided to own as little as it takes to survive, the economy of this country would collapse since most of us would lose our jobs, and we would become a third world country.  Do these people want Ford and GM to fold up their tents?  It is the profitable SUV market that is keeping them alive.




While on the subject of SUV gas mileage, there have been TV spots where another environmental group is trying to convince us that driving an SUV contributes to terrorism.  Still another environmental group is terrorizing this country by burning SUV dealerships.  The question becomes one of which terrorist group poses the most danger to this country.  To follow these groups’ line of logic, it must be assumed that:


1.     SUVs are totally unnecessary.


2.     SUVs are responsible for the majority of the fuel consumption in this country.


3.     All of the fuel used by SUVs comes from terrorist countries.


4.     None of the fuel used by small vehicles comes from terrorist countries.


5.     Oil companies have to buy from terrorist countries because of SUVs.


6.     The countries that we buy oil from are terrorist countries.


Some people buy SUVs solely for status, ie, to drive a large, expensive (and therefore, impressive) vehicle.  In these cases of one-upmanship and “keeping up with the Jones’”, it can be rightly said that more fuel is being used than necessary.  However, many other SUVs are purchased because they are needed for the transportation requirements of the owners.  If the vehicle fits the needs of the owner, it is the right vehicle for the situation.


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There are many vehicles that get far worse gas mileage than SUVs.  Several pickup trucks, vans, exotics, and many modified vehicles get worse mileage than any SUV.  The Acura RDX, a midsize SUV, gets 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with a V6 engine and without a hybrid electric system.  There are not many V6 sedans that can boast that mileage.  As a class, Italian two seat exotic cars are rated the lowest of all in the EPA mileage guide.  A few two door, two seat coupes dip into single digit gas mileages.  Just because a vehicle has space, it does not have to get bad gas mileage.



The third through the sixth statements all have the same supposition.  That is, that this country buys oil from countries that support terrorism.  This country is doing its best to stop terrorism, and it buys very little oil from countries that are reported to support terrorism.  We all use the same oil to fuel our automobiles, heat and cool our environments, and run many of our power plants.  The difference between the amount of oil that we currently use and the amount of oil that we would use if those people that really don’t need SUVs would buy something else is not going to stop terrorism or even slow it down.  Terrorists believe that God wants them to commit terror, so if we buy less oil from someone who supports terror, that person would probably build one less gold plated palace, but since the terrorist activity is considered to be a holy commitment, support of that activity would most likely continue at current levels.




When we were kids, our parents told us to play nice with the other kids, to give everybody a turn, and to share our toys.  When we grew up, we found that the world does not work in that way.  It would be nice if it did, but it does not.  For a moment, let us assume that this country did run that way.  Each of us would be paid what we need, and we would live in common habitats.  The excess money from our labors would be directed towards the common good, ie, health care, food distribution, travel facilities, etc.  We would live in identical little homes, ride bicycles or buses, and wear uniforms.  Depending on the degree to which we take this scenario, it is called either Socialism or Communism.  Several countries have tried this form of life, and whether you consider these forms of government as evil or not, the fact is that neither has ever worked for the good of the people.


This website does not condone the unnecessary use of fuel or other resources, but there are far more real and provable reasons to lower our consumption of fuel than the implication of a theoretical cessation of terrorist activity, a show of patriotism gone awry, or a testament to some principle that has been twisted into religion.  Saving money, saving oil for future generations, and saving the environment are very good reasons for purchasing vehicles that accomplish our purposes without going to unnecessary excesses.


This society puts out a tremendous gross national product, and much of our ability to do that is due to our ability to travel and to transport.  We could all trash our vehicles and ride bicycles like many people would like to have us do, but in doing that, we would convert this country into a third world power and become vulnerable to being conquered by any number of countries that would prefer to control us and to loot our resources, as has happened to many countries even in the last twenty years.


This website prefers to condone responsibility in our citizenship.  With that in mind, when you try to decide on a vehicle for your use, it would be wise to disregard the politics and get what you need to accomplish your specific purposes, and be unashamed to purchase and drive it.