California, home to the most stringent auto-emission restrictions in the U.S., is also home to the most SUVs in the U.S., with 2.8 million (Texas, by comparison, has 1.8 million). But wait, you’re saying, California has no snow and most people live in cities…

“In Southern California, image is important,” said Arthur St. Antoine, an editor-at-large with Motor Trend magazine. “I think the big allure is how the SUVs make you look. Any number of people would be better served by a minivan. They have more room and are more comfortable for five, but they don’t have that rough-and-ready ‘I just got off the Serengeti’ image.”

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So people are willing to screw the planet to improve their image. Fine. But perhaps more depressing is this:

Thousand Oaks mom Sue Short, who bought a Chevy Tahoe after her third son was born, said the first time at the gas pump was a shock. “Oh my God,” she said as the price to fill up rose. “Oh my God.”

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“Your first time filling up?” a fellow SUV driver nearby asked her. She’s since gotten used to the price and loves her SUV.