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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-13-02, 05:51 AM Thread Starter
Mr. Embargo
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Religious groups start anti-SUV ad campaign

Car buyers in four US states will soon hear a religious appeal to their environmental conscience: “What would Jesus drive?”, Associated Press (AP) reported.

AP said that a Pennsylvania-based environmental group is planning television advertising in North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri to urge consumers to park their pollutive SUVs -- Jesus would prefer a cleaner vehicle, the group contends.

“Economic issues are moral issues. There really isn't a decision in your life that isn't a moral choice,” AP was told by the Reverend Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which is sponsoring the “What Would Jesus Drive?”' campaign.

Associated Press said the Wynnewood, Pennsylvania-based group will begin running television ads this month in eight cities to urge consumers to park their sport-utility vehicles and to buy fuel-efficient cars. The ads contend that the devout ought to consider the SUVs' effect on the earth, AP added.

AP said the ad campaign was but a small voice in a sea of SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks which last year accounted for half the new vehicles sold in the United States.

The average fuel economy for all 2003 model cars and passenger trucks dropped to 20.8 miles per gallon, AP said, reflecting what vehicle makers and many buyers say is a higher priority on comfort and family needs than saving petrol.

According to AP, vehicle makers say they'd be happy to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles if that's what Americans wanted to drive.

“If people would be demanding tailfins on cars, we'd be making tailfins on cars. But people aren't demanding tailfins, Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a coalition of 13 companies that produce most of the country's vehicles, told AP.

“People want power. Consumers want power,” Shosteck added, according to AP.

AP said Ball and a network of like-minded mainline Christians and Jews hope to alter those buying habits.

Global warming and smoggy air worsened by vehicle exhausts threaten the health of humans, plants and animals worldwide, and the faithful are called to preserve God's creation, Ball told Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“We think he is Lord of our transportation choices as well as all our other choices,” Ball, an ordained American Baptist minister, told Associated Press. “When you need a new car, you should buy the most fuel-efficient one that truly meets your needs.”

AP said the Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign plans to send mailings this month to 100,000 congregations and synagogues discussing the relationship between fuel economy and religious teachings about stewardship and justice.

The campaign is a joint effort of the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, AP noted.

AP said the organisations plan a November 20 news conference in Detroit, where they have requested meetings with executives from the Big Three car makers and the United Auto Workers' union, campaign director Douglas Grace said.

Associated Press said the groups plan to frame their arguments in moral -- as well as economic -- terms by promoting hybrid and fuel-cell powered vehicles, as well as other fuel-saving technologies.

"We're trying to show the technology is there, that consumers are interested in it, and they're interested in buying American," Grace told AP.

Bell told AP the e-mails and meetings will be supplemented this month by TV ads running in Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; Fort Wayne and South Bend, Indiana; Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa and Springfield and Kansas City, Missouri.

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-14-02, 06:36 AM Thread Starter
Mr. Embargo
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Dave Leggett from commentary on the anti-SUV campaigns:

Let's get something absolutely clear. I'm no big fan of
SUVs. Brick-like aerodynamics and the fact that they tend
to be big and heavy is almost enough for me. But what
really kills them in my eyes is the simple fact that the
people buying them, in the main, don't use them off-road.

Now I know there's a safety aspect with 4WD that people
understandably buy into, but there's also the not entirely
lost fact that your big mass will obliterate anything of
substantially smaller mass in a collision - slightly
uncomfortable territory in my personal view.

People find all kinds of justifications for owning SUVs
('it was great on the beach on vacation last year') but
deep down they're a bit of a con. Over engineered for what
they do means wasteful to me. The lifestyle marketing
guff fishes people in of course, but that's human nature
and they're free to buy one if they want to. Hey, you know
the arguments for and against.

But something in the news today has put me in alliance with
SUV drivers everywhere. They'll be indignant when they hear
about it and rightly so. Certain religious groups in the
US are planning a campaign against SUVs saying that your
choice of vehicle is a moral issue and that SUVs are
anti-social. This strikes me as a can of worms of immense
magnitude that they would do well to steer clear of.

'What vehicle would Jesus drive?' Are they serious? I would
guess that today he would have a bicycle and would be a
keen supporter of public transport. If he had to have a
vehicle then maybe he'd plump for a gasoline-electric
hybrid like the Toyota Prius. Okay, if he has to have a
pure gasoline ICE, then something modest surely - Perodua
Nippa? Suzuki Alto?

But my real gripe is this: if your choice of vehicle is
really a 'moral issue', then what about luxury cars and
performance cars? They're not exactly eco-friendly and if
you trade down to something more basic, the money saved
can surely be diverted to morally good causes. And what
about other areas of discretionary spending on luxury or
non-essential goods? Should we all live the lives of

No, your SUV, should you choose to have one, should not be
lambasted on purely moral grounds in this way. The vehicles
are perfectly legal and in terms of the wider picture, no
morally - or environmentally - worse than many other types
of vehicle. Some SUVs are better than others of course and
I'm not saying that there is not a case for discouraging
the worst excesses via the regulatory environment. But
SUVs - or their drivers - should not be singled out as
wrong on moral grounds in my view.

I'm reminded of Beatrice Hall's line about free speech:
'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the
death you're right to say it.' (The friends of Voltaire,
1906) For 'say' substitute 'drive'.

The fact that there is still massive poverty in the world
is a serious and complicated question for all of us who
live in comparable luxury - and this isn't really the place
for dwelling on that. But picking on SUV drivers seems to
me to be a little ill advised in this context, as well as
missing the point (unless the point is simply to stir
things up).

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