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Four Wheel Drive SUV popularity

Ever since going thru the 1972 fuel shortage I have been a proponent 
of using less. And so have a lot of other people. Something has 
happened to change this. Today the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is 
extremely popular. Since most are four wheel drive and heavy, they use 
more fuel.  I read somewhere that the national Miles/Gallon usage 
increased by 18% due to the popularity of the SUV. What is driving 
this? From what I gather many are buying them because they feel more 
secure driving that type of vehicle. The other day I saw a Ford 
Explorer lightly hit by a school bus. The SUV rolled over on it's 
roof. They are much more top heavy than sedans.  Last year I saw a
number of SUVs in the ditch due to icy conditions. The sedans drove 
slower or stayed home. Here in Eastern North Carolina, there are no hills, 
little or no snow, and I have'nt seen a dirt road in years, yet SUVs are all over.
I would love to have one but cannot justify the need where I live. In 
western PA or similar snow belt place they would be great. Must this waste 
continue? Any thoughts on how to push the cost/benefit thing?  

Rudy Moehrbach
Waste Reduction Resource Center
P.O.Box 29569
Raleigh, NC 27626-9569,Tel 800-476-8686,FX 919-715-1612
Homepage http://owr.ehnr.state.nc.us/wrrc1.htm