As we swelter in the summer...

QUESTION OF THE MONTH Q:

August 31, 2002

QUESTION OF THE MONTH

Q:

As we swelter in the summer heat, a recent report has found that U.S. cars and light trucks produce one-fifth of the country's carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and at least as much carbon dioxide as all sources in Japan, India and Germany generate. Do you favor restrictions or taxes on large vehicles such as SUVs to promote fuel effiency and limit emissions?

There is no good reason to continue to allow light trucks and SUVs to be exempted from the more stringent emissions and gas mileage requirements that "normal" passenger cars must comply with. I am in favor of restrictions, taxes or other measures that would force large vehicles to meet such standards.

The exemptions for SUVs and light trucks date back more than 30 years to the early days of emissions controls and gas mileage mandates - when light trucks were a small percentage of the vehicle market, used mostly in commerce and agriculture.

The situation is much different now. Vehicle miles driven have tripled in 35 years. Ozone alert days are now common in the summer.

And SUVs now make up more than 50 percent of new vehicle sales and are used mainly as passenger vehicles. Yet light trucks and SUVs are still allowed to discharge up to four times as much pollutants as a passenger car.

There is just no good reason why a Honda CRV should be allowed to pollute more than a Honda Accord simply because it's registered as an SUV.

And to bring the SUVs into compliance with passenger car standards requires no new breakthroughs or inventions - only the application of existing technology already in widespread use in cars.

The situation is no different regarding gas mileage standards. There is no rational reason that fuel economy standards should not be expanded to include all vehicles.

If that requires downsizing some of the behemoths on the roads, so much the better.

Steve Shimko

Catonsville

SUVs pollute, pound the roads to potholes, block other drivers' vision, take up more than their share of parking spaces and waste gasoline. Yet, on any given day, fully one-third of the parking spaces in my downtown garage are filled with SUVs.

Baltimore is not built on a mountain. It receives little snow. Baltimore SUV drivers are not carrying truckloads of building materials or farm equipment. In fact, I rarely see more than one or maybe two people in the SUVs I see on the roads everywhere.

If the only way to make Americans wake up is by hitting them in the pocketbook, we should impose a state tax on SUVs to cover the cost of the damage they do to the roads and the environment.

If people are so willing to spend money frivolously, they should also bear the costs their SUVs impose on us.

Kathleen A. Morse

Baltimore

It is ludicrous that our nation's automobiles produce such a large percentage of the world's carbon emissions.

New and used cars and SUVs that get below-par gas mileage should be subjected to a hefty annual tax.

A more lenient tax should be applied to owners of light-duty pickups, since many of their owners need the towing and hauling capabilities of a pick-up.

Jeb Cook

Baltimore

Do I favor restrictions or taxes on large vehicles and SUVs to promote efficiency and reduce emissions? My answer is not "no," but "hell no."

I am in principle opposed to anything that provides politicians an opportunity to raise taxes of any type. Once given such authorization, politicians will find ways to attach the levy to everything, including the carbon dioxide you exhale.

None of the taxes so enacted will ever go away, regardless of the efficiency of the vehicles subsequently produced.

But making large vehicles and SUVs more efficient is not an issue for government restrictions. It's good business.

Restrictions on SUVs and large vehicles will take care of themselves when the buying public determines that driving inefficient vehicles is too expensive. But we don't want or need government's help in making that determination.

Let's not attempt to sneak the Kyoto treaty's fatally flawed plans in through the back door. There remains a vast gap between scientific fact and the gross speculations of popular "green" theories regarding global warming.

Let's let our decisions be based on rigorous review and real scientific consensus.

W.C. Harsanyi

Pasadena

Taxes on large vehicles will do nothing to promote fuel efficiency and limit emissions. Drivers with the money to buy expensive vehicles and pay extra costs in taxes and fuel consumption would not be deterred from continuing their assault on the environment.

California has shown us the way by setting strict emissions standards to protect our environment.

The public has no intention to control its appetite for gas-guzzlers voluntarily. Restrictions are the only way to go.

Walter Boyd

Lutherville

My response is a resounding "no."

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