If our government is willing to declare war on turf, then it should be prepared to tackle the curse of SUVs
The metaphor ‘perfect storm’ is being used in every news bulletin and piece of commentary to describe the global and local situations we find ourselves in.
We are living at a time of war, pestilence and increasing want on a planet that is heating up at a pace even greater than the gloomiest predictions. What’s perfect about it?
I am reminded of the birth of our first child. The current consort announced late on a December night that she was experiencing regular bouts of discomfort that could be contractions.
We loaded ourselves up and off with us to the maternity. After we arrived and she was hooked up to an array of monitors, the midwife reassured us that all would be fine.
“You’re getting lovely pains,” she said. Herself looked at me out the corner of her eye and said: “There’s nothing lovely about these pains, let me tell you.”
Indeed, there is nothing lovely or perfect about the bother we are in. Not only is the global house on fire but one of the occupants has decided to rekindle an old grudge and spray the place with petrol.
At times like this we come face to face with the mysteries of life. Some are more profound than others, ranging from the question as to why we are here at all to why some people attending weddings and Ed Sheeran concerts spend their time on their phones recording a poor replica of the event while missing the experience of the real thing.
One of the mysteries of life I can’t solve is this: why do people have to drive SUVs — aka jeeps/Chelsea tractors/crew cabs — when they have no need to drive across fields and down boreens and have no use for a horse box, cow box or builder’s trailer?
In a world dancing on the precipice of climate disaster, the first thing to be tackled must be waste. SUVs symbolise the wanton waste at the heart of Western society.
If our government is willing to declare war on turf, then it should be prepared to take on these moving monuments to profligacy.
Just look at the size of the tyres and wheels on these things and consider the extra fuel it must take to turn them compared to those on a normal saloon car.
In fact, everything about SUVs and their like is substantially bigger than its corresponding component in an ordinary car. It clearly takes more precious materials and energy to make them, without ever driving them.
As somebody who is reversing reluctantly into my golden years, I know that when it comes to cars, size matters, especially when it comes to height. It is easier to get into and out of a car elevated to bum level than one that’s pitched at knee or calf level.
However, the machine does not need to be built like something Rambo would go to war in.
In case we think that SUVs are few and far between, in his book SUV Madness, John Everett cites car sales figures from Britain showing that 42pc of all registrations in 2019 were SUVs or SUV crossovers. In Europe the sales of SUVs accounted for 36pc of the market in 2018.
According to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, between 2010 and 2018 SUVs, which they describe as higher-polluting vehicles, more than doubled their global market share from 17pc to 39pc, driving their emissions to more than 700 mega tonnes of CO2.
According to the Federation this is more than the total emissions of the UK and the Netherlands combined.
People tell me they feel safer in SUVs, but figures produced in the US by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that, because of their height, SUVs are twice as likely to roll over in crashes.
Other figures from the US show that people are 11pc more likely to die in an accident in an SUV, and because of their size they are far more lethal in accidents involving pedestrians.
Of course, the motor companies have been aggressively marketing them by giving these luxury vehicles mass-market appeal.
What can you say about the SUV hybrid, a strange contraption where a petrol engine has to use even more energy to haul around a massive battery and an electric motor
In its turn, the electric motor uses a substantial amount of its energy hauling around a dead petrol engine.
It is time to tax these wasteful hulks off the road; they have nothing to recommend them as an ordinary mode of private transport.
Yes, there is a place for them, they are ideal for people whose work or living conditions involve haulage of smaller loads or the regular crossing of rough terrain. For anyone else they should be treated and taxed as a complete luxury.
We have enough problems in the world, it is time we stopped indulging and started penalising this kind of waste.