Guilt-tripping people is a most-effective means of getting them to do what you want — especially when rational forms of persuasion aren’t working. The latest tactic in the war on SUVs — other than simply setting them afire, as the eco-terrorist Earth Liberation Front did at a Erie-area car dealership Jan. 4 — has been to imply that owning anything more substantial than a Toyota Corolla amounts to supporting international terrorists.
That’s a heavy load to shoulder after September 11.
But is it a fair argument — or just the latest means of going after a type of vehicle that some folks simply want to see off the roads, no matter how it’s done?
Various environmental and self-styled public-interest outfits — as well as mostly city-dwelling, big-money media types — have made no secret of their rabid feelings about SUVs. They hated them before September 11 — and they continue to revile them now. Terrorism has merely given them a new weapon. Or more accurately — a new excuse.
Usually these same groups and individuals also advocate forcing the public into smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles — even public transportation. Their position boils down to imposing their preferences upon a public that stubbornly continues to prefer larger, safer, more-powerful and comfortable cars and trucks — as well as SUVs.
But it’s one thing to openly admit you’re gunning for SUVs because you think they’re wasteful road pigs and believe that energy conservation is a moral imperative, quite another to establish a causal connection between SUV ownership and terror attacks on Americans.
It’s a bait-and-switch tactic very much like the one used by anti-gun groups — who have tried, thus far without much success, to implicate legitimate firearms manufacturers for crimes committed by third parties over which they have absolutely no control.
We’re not buying our unleaded from Osama bin Laden or Hamas, after all; we’re buying it from Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, BP, and various other multinational petroleum companies — none of them associated with terrorist groups. These companies may be politically unpopular — “big oil” — but they provide jobs for tens of thousands and are an absolutely critical leg of our economy. Our high standard of living — everything from Palm Pilots to shopping malls to the latest and best in health-care options — is tied to our affluence, which, in turn, is tied to an energy-based economy. For now, that means petroleum — because it is the most-efficient of the various options currently available. A hydrogen-based economy is decades away; other alternatives have been rendered untenable by regulation (i.e., the nuclear power industry — which hasn’t been able to get a permit for a new reactor complex in years), or massively expensive and impractical.
Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, and the others do buy their raw material — crude oil — from sometimes-sketchy OPEC nations. But what of other multinational business that acquire the raw material used to produce finished goods for eventual sale in the United States? Does the fact that General Motors does a great deal of business in the People’s Republic of China mean that driving a Buick is tantamount to supporting Communism?
Certainly, larger SUVs use more gas than smaller-sized passenger cars. But if the amount of energy expended is going to become the means by which we measure each American’s “support for terror quotient,” then we’ll have to turn our attention to more than just SUVs. Large homes require more oil energy to keep toasty than humble condos. Will we soon see TV ads guilt-tripping McMansion-dwelling suburbanites — some of whom undoubtedly work in the special interest/environmental “community”? Don’t bet on it.
Our dependence on oil is pervasive — and while browbeating SUV owners may be satisfying to a certain element, it won’t change the reality of the energy equation, let alone defang international terrorism. To suggest that SUV owners are somehow to blame for the events of September 11 represents a new low in the war by special-interest elites on the American driver.
— Eric Peters is an editorial writer for the Washington Times and the auto columnist for America Online, Netscape, and CompuServe.