Desert Dispatch Letter Defends SUV’s and Attacks Carbon Fees

When you write for a blog you get used to getting some amount of criticism for what you type. But a letter responding to the efforts of Fred Camino and I to bolster the Feuer bills after a bewildering editorial in the Desert Dispatch prevoked a response that was so shocking it made me spit my tofu cilantro shake all over my comic book collection.

Nevertheless, as we get closer to November, assuming that county politicians get organized enough to get a carbon tax or registration fees on the ballot, we can expect to see more of the types of arguments expressed so elegantly in yesterday’s Dispatch.  Fellow letter-rider Camino commented in an email, "It’s just so ridiculous that it comes off as satire to me, like one of the writers from The Onion is playing a joke on us."  For those readers who are over 21, feel free to make a drinking game out of counting the red herrings in each paragraph.

From the Desert Dispatch:

Highways can handle big cars

I laughed myself sick while reading the April 11 letter to the editor from, two obviously very young and clueless Damien Newton and Frederick Dennstedt, claiming that " when the California highways were built, the engineers weren’t counting on the number or size of Explores and Hummers" on the road.

In reality, when the highways were designed and built, they were designed for what most people drove in those days, big Desotos, Chryslers, Mercury’s, and other huge cars that you could put your entire family into and take for an outing safely as opposed to the deathtrap little cars of today that require loading the family into two of them for the same outing. Obviously driving two of them removes any savings of driving one large car. Also, in 1956, Congress passed the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways" bill under the theory that our highways should be able to carry Army convoys with military equipment in case of an attack during the Cold War. Obviously this military equipment that the highways were designed for is much heavier and smog producing than a Hummer or Explores (sic). Perhaps these highways were not designed for the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens that the Los Angeles Mayor encourages them to use illegally.

The writer makes a somewhat cogent argument when he discusses the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways," but we weren’t arguing that one large vehicle or even a convoy of them are going to cause large fissures to open in the asphalt underneath them as though they were in a cartoon where the road got hungry. We are arguing that the roads weren’t built to handle the hundreds of thousands of large SUV’s that travel on them each day.

And for those counting the red herrings, I have the count at two, "small cars" and "illegal immigrants."

Now along comes these two children to state that drivers of large vehicles should be charged extra for using our roads is the most reasonable solution to our transportation woes. Big cars cost more to purchase and operate, hence more sales tax and gasoline tax. Therefore, we are already paying more. Maybe a more reasonable solution would be to use that money for its intended purposes (transportation) instead of funding every social program that the liberals can think of.

I agree that it is a shame that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) robbed transportation funds to refuel the general fund.

The red herring count is up to three after "liberals." I’m not counting the crack about how old Fred and I might be because I like to consider myself a young idealist despite being on the older side of "don’t trust anyone over 30."

As for the global warming side of their nonsensical letter. Look at your heating bill and you will see that during the winter of last year compared to this year there has been a two degree drop in average temperature. The whole global warming hoax is about getting more tax dollars. In a few years when the earth goes through a cooling cycle and Al Gore is questioned about it, he will respond, "It is only cooling now because of all the ‘earth saving measures’ that I invented."

I’m not going to argue the Global Warming Theory. Red herring count stands at four, adding "Al Gore."

The bottom line is folks; gasoline prices will never go down as long as there is state and federal tax on it. I intend to keep driving the biggest SUV I can find just to keep my family comfortable and safe and of course to irritate environmentalists. And I am not going to switch from my Idle Spurs prime rib, Steer and Stein steaks, or Del Taco burritos in favor of tofu sandwiches and if I only live to be 90 instead of 91, so be it. I’m enjoying life and I hope you’ll join me.


Nick Benson

I’m going to assume the writer is a McCain fan, if he thinks that government taxes are the cause of higher gas prices. Gas prices have jumped a huge amount since the start of the year, and we haven’t had any new taxes levied by the government.

Secondly, the relative safety value of the SUV is up for some debate. Even this auto insurance news site raises some questions about the safety value of driving the biggest SUV Nick Benson can find. Even if it is safer for the driver and his family, which again is up for debate, it’s certainly less safe for everyone around them.

Incidently, my red herring count stands at seven after adding "environmentalists," "tofu sandwiches" and "living to age 91."

  • he’s gotta be an onion editor. seriously. there’s no way that’s real.

    furthermore – i wonder what life is like, for nick benson. seeing things so black and white. it must be really nice to not see the inherent complexities of the world.

    with his habits, he’ll be lucky to live to 51, not 91.

  • I love this guy. Ever since I turned 27 I’ve gotten quite sensitive about my age (a sure sign that you’re old), so him complimenting my youth definitely made me feel better about being born in the early 80s.

    But other than his acknowledgment of my youth and vibrancy, Nick is wrong on every other account. His most glaring error is the assumption that I don’t LOVE Del Taco.

  • The whole “small cars are dangerous” meme drives me absolutely insane. The only plausible reason that small cars could be significantly more dangerous than large cars is because other people are driving large cars. People frequently comment to me that “bicycling is so dangerous”, but really it’s not the bike that makes it dangerous – it’s the cars you have to “share the road” with. It’s actually pretty hard to kill yourself with only a bike on flat terrain.

    When measuring the “safety” of a vehicle in a regulatory context, we really need a metric that includes not only the consequences for the people inside the vehicle in question, but also the vehicle’s effects on everyone else. Similarly, what if the fines for moving violations scaled with the mass of your vehicle? Or even better, its kinetic energy (0.5*m*v*v). Cyclists should be ticketed for breaking the law, sure, but the average negative consequences of their bad behavior are so much smaller than those of someone in a Hummer it seems ludicrous that they should both be subject to the same fines.

  • The thing is with their larger tire patch, larger tire diameters, wide stance and longer suspensions SUVs don’t damage road surfaces very much at all. Combined with their miserable fuel economy they end up being net contributors to the general US highway condition.

    BTW, Al Gore is not a “red herring” just red.

  • johnny

    Take away a few brain cells and Rob Dawg would sound a lot like this letter.

  • Uhhhh, thanks?

    Actually all I did was correct a common misperception about SUVs.

    Truth be told i wouldn’t have made half the claims in this letter. What the designers didn’t count on when designing the IHS and its’ associated NHS designees was capacity and commercial transport. Additionally, while not their fault, they couldn’t do much about the midstream political repurposing to serve city cores contrary to the original desire of the big cities and how the system was envisioned.

    I would mildly support the claim of total life energy tradeoffs and the multiple vehicle for certain trips assertions. Both have just enough truth to prevent summary dismissal.

    The guy lives in Barstow. How many of the few he started with could be left?

  • Another thing to even the competitive void and fill in the funding for roads. Start charging the shipping and freight for the roads. The freight railroads pay at minimum 95+% of their infrastructure costs, why do the road freight carriers get away with their usage for next to nothing. I’m doubting they cover more than 10% of their actual usage. Also the weight of 18 wheelers is vastly above car and SUV weight, they cause well above the majority of the damage to roadways and easily lessen the lifespan of Highways/Interstates/Roads by half of what they could be.

    So why does one freight method get off almost free of charges and the other gets railed. By the time you look at freight railroads vs. trucking it is amazing they’re still in business. They let Amtrak use their rails for almost nothing, eating up valuable time slots, they have to pay taxes on all that land, 18 wheeler and other road freight does none of this and gets taxed very little.

    All that and they’re now in Congress bitching about needed new refineries and other such things because the costs of more expensive “diesal” have hit them so hard. That’s just bum luck since they’re so inefficient at carrying cargo. Tough, deal with it, let the system that is more efficient and more cost conscious (rail) easily take care of the long hauls and stick to the shorter drives.

    …but I digress…

    Road users should cover 100% of their utilization. Just that change would cause so much more pricing power in transit it would again take over and become a dominant presence.

    The amount of money something like Caltrain could make by doubling their ticket prices and still being relatively cheap in comparison to auto use would be massive.

    Amtrak would easily be able to reap hundreds of millions of profits even with their inefficient utilization of the system they’re running.

    …oh the mind screw of it all.


    btw – Good blog. Keep up the interesting material. :)

  • Not to engage in an ad hominem attack, but…okay, then, I will do one. This guy had no problem attacking Damien’s age, so, right back atcha, fella.

    If this guy is stupid enough to live in Barstow, then why should his opinion be trusted on anything?

    There. That was mean. And uncalled for. And I enjoyed it very much.

  • Scott,
    I know my comments rarely make a difference but at least you could have seen that I beat you to the cheap shot.

    The freight railroads pay at minimum 95+% of their infrastructure costs,

    Not really. They have lots of long standing agreements that cut their costs significantly. Most of the Metrolink Ventura County line was rebuilt for less than free for instance. And don’t even get me started on property taxes.


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