… asked the title of an Agence France-Presse story in TerraDaily on Sunday.

Uh, not bloody likely.

The story cited falling SUV sales figures for August, combined with the even higher-than-usual gas-price spikes wrought by the hurricane’s effect on refining capacity, and concluded, via an economist or two, “Potentially, Katrina could signal the death knell of the SUV in as much as consumers are going to find themselves once burned, twice shy to buy such vehicles.”  

But that’s assuming a lot, not the least of which is that consumers make their vehicle-buying — and especially SUV-buying — decisions based purely on economics. Ignoring the fact that many Americans go into debt or spend beyond their means to drive the vehicle they believe best defines them as a person, or the vehicle they may one day need versus what would work for them most of the time, the theory sounds more feasible.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

What I’d like to see, of course, is the widespread divorce of people from their vehicles, period … something just as likely as the demise of the SUV. Also ignoring cultural factors, this wise shift could be based solely on economics as well. With rising, largely Lance Armstrong-fueled, bicycle sales in the U.S., coupled with ever-rising gas prices, and growing frustration with insurance companies of all kinds, I forecast a two-wheeled American transportation wise-up, quick-like. Hey, and why not? For the price of a really crappy car, you can get a smooth-riding top-of-the-line bike. For less than the cost of a few months’ insurance, you can get a trailer to tow the kids and/or groceries. The price of gas buys gourmet organic treats, and more. On pure economics, bikes win out, no contest. And hopefully sometime soon, consumers will realize this and find themselves “once burned, twice shy” to buy any vehicles.

Lest you think Katrina really is the end of the SUV’s reign on American roads, though, just wait for the SUV-marketing spin machine that could just as easily turn Katrina itself and other extreme weather events into selling points: I see footage of the wealthier folk who were able to leave New Orleans in large SUVs with their trailers in tow amid warnings of inclement weather, pitted against the car-less, SUV-less fools left behind that no savvy buyer wants to be. Or footage of giant vehicles weathering big storms accompanied by a paternal voice-over asking if you, consumer, feel prepared for the tough weather ahead.

“GM … Prepare for the tough weather ahead.”

Faced with a well-run ad campaign like this, it might even be a good business strategy to acknowledge global warming’s realities, most of all the likelihood of increased extreme weather events of all kinds in the years to come.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Maybe even hard-core greens could be stirred into simultaneous hatred and lust for such enormous vehicles … that is, until economics and ethics kick in and everyone eschews cars for good and starts cycling.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!