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  1. #1
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    The Fall of the SUV

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/op...html?th&emc=th


    Stranded in Suburbia

    Published: May 19, 2008
    BERLIN

    Paul Krugman

    I have seen the future, and it works.
    O.K., I know that these days you’re supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of “old Europe.”
    But we’re living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon — have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.
    If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much.
    Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).
    But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car. By and large, the Germans don’t drive itsy-bitsy toy cars, but they do drive modest-sized passenger vehicles rather than S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks.
    In the near future I expect we’ll see Americans moving down the same path. We’ve already done it once: over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, the average mileage of U.S. passenger vehicles rose about 50 percent, as Americans switched to smaller, lighter cars.
    This improvement stalled with the rise of S.U.V.’s during the cheap-gas 1990s. But now that gas costs more than ever before, even after adjusting for inflation, we can expect to see mileage rise again.
    Admittedly, the next few years will be rough for families who bought big vehicles when gas was cheap, and now find themselves the owners of white elephants with little trade-in value. But raising fuel efficiency is something we can and will do.
    Can we also drive less? Yes — but getting there will be a lot harder.
    There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline — they’re trying to shop locally, they’re canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they’re switching to public transit.
    But none of it amounts to much. For example, some major public transit systems are excited about ridership gains of 5 or 10 percent. But fewer than 5 percent of Americans take public transit to work, so this surge of riders takes only a relative handful of drivers off the road.
    Any serious reduction in American driving will require more than this — it will mean changing how and where many of us live.
    To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.
    It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.
    And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas — it’s starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.
    Changing the geography of American metropolitan areas will be hard. For one thing, houses last a lot longer than cars. Long after today’s S.U.V.’s have become antique collectors’ items, millions of people will still be living in subdivisions built when gas was $1.50 or less a gallon.
    Infrastructure is another problem. Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to justify transit systems unless there’s sufficient population density, yet it’s hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.
    And there are, as always in America, the issues of race and class. Despite the gentrification that has taken place in some inner cities, and the plunge in national crime rates to levels not seen in decades, it will be hard to shake the longstanding American association of higher-density living with poverty and personal danger.
    Still, if we’re heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.


    Last edited by Wesley; 05-19-2008 at 11:52 AM.
    Let my Fred's Posse Ride: Georges, Naz, Hogue, Bryce, Nader, Monte, Matt, and McKay.

  2. #2
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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Yeah I think I am gonna keep my explorer and will probably buy another when this one dies.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    It is all Bush's fault! Where is my cheap gas???


    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin 1775

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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    I didn't read it as complaining about Bush or even high oil prices. It's a reality that we all have to face. Seems like a logical article.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    SUVs are not "antique collector's items" like the author mentions...Just look around while you are on the road, there are PLENTY of them still around.

    I drive one and I don't feel at all guilty. In fact, quite the opposite.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Also, using Germany as a comparison to the US is laughable. The distance across Germany is about 380 miles. Of course they are going to drive less, that's roughly the equivalent of driving across Iowa.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by cycloneworld View Post
    SUVs are not "antique collector's items" like the author mentions...Just look around while you are on the road, there are PLENTY of them still around.

    I drive one and I don't feel at all guilty. In fact, quite the opposite.
    He didn't say they are antiques yet, just implied they may become that in future years. I also don't think he's trying to make SUV drivers feel guilty. Are you guys reading the article or just reacting to keywords?



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by cycloneworld View Post
    SUVs are not "antique collector's items" like the author mentions...Just look around while you are on the road, there are PLENTY of them still around.

    I drive one and I don't feel at all guilty. In fact, quite the opposite.
    Exactly, so gas is still cheap enough that people will complain, but not do anything about it.


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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by brianhos View Post
    It is all Bush's fault! Where is my cheap gas???
    I'm no fan of Bush but I really don't get this line of thinking (yes I realize you're probably saying this sarcasticly). Oil is traded as a commodidy (sp?) so it's only worth what people are willing to pay for it on any given day. The more people want it the more you have to pay for it. Instead of blaming Bush or Big Oil for selling oil for what people will pay for it we should be bombing the hell out of China and India so the can't afford cars any more and we'll have more oil for ourselves.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by cycloneworld View Post
    Also, using Germany as a comparison to the US is laughable. The distance across Germany is about 380 miles. Of course they are going to drive less, that's roughly the equivalent of driving across Iowa.
    How often do you drive more than 380 miles? A couple times a year? That's nothing compared to how many miles many people drive in a year going to work and back.

    What he's talking about is the logistics of public transportation for worker commutes - subways, bikes, buses, etc. Most American cities are only set up for driver commutes in large part due to urban sprawl. Public transportation isn't going to be effective in places like that, which could turn into a real problem in the future if oil supplies begin to dry up.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by benjay View Post
    How often do you drive more than 380 miles? A couple times a year? That's nothing compared to how many miles many people drive in a year going to work and back.

    What he's talking about is the logistics of public transportation for worker commutes - subways, bikes, buses, etc. Most American cities are only set up for driver commutes in large part due to urban sprawl. Public transportation isn't going to be effective in places like that, which could turn into a real problem in the future if oil supplies begin to dry up.
    actually we plan on doing the most driving this summer than we have in the last 10 years.

    I think we have 5 or 6 trips that are car rides of 6+ hours each way....

    -keep.


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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    I stop reading when I see NY Times (or Washington Post or Los Angeles Times) .........



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by keepngoal View Post
    actually we plan on doing the most driving this summer than we have in the last 10 years.

    I think we have 5 or 6 trips that are car rides of 6+ hours each way....

    -keep.
    You're missing my point. 380+ mile trips are usually vacations, which are infrequent. The miles we drive commuting to work dwarfs those amounts. Saying the size of Germany is why Germans drive less is at best over-simplifying the statistic. At worst it's just plain wrong. I'm leaning towards just plain wrong.



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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by sunset View Post
    I stop reading when I see NY Times (or Washington Post or Los Angeles Times) .........
    So what do you read for fun besides the Rag?


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    Re: The Fall of the SUV

    Quote Originally Posted by benjay View Post
    You're missing my point. 380+ mile trips are usually vacations, which are infrequent. The miles we drive commuting to work dwarfs those amounts. Saying the size of Germany is why Germans drive less is at best over-simplifying the statistic. At worst it's just plain wrong. I'm leaning towards just plain wrong.

    At our workplace, we have several people who commute by driving their big vehicles 5,000-10,000 miles per year. If a person works in Des Moines and lives in Ames, he would be in that category. This is not happening in London or Berlin where people ride the train a similar distance. Europe is paying $9/gallon right now.


    Let my Fred's Posse Ride: Georges, Naz, Hogue, Bryce, Nader, Monte, Matt, and McKay.

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