George F. Will's snide and ad hominen Thanksgiving fare, " 'What Would Jesus Drive?' " [op-ed, Nov. 28], equated environmentalism with "moral exhibitionism" and linked concerns about the environmental and geopolitical effects of SUV fuel consumption with the "anti-automobile reflex among some liberals."

The defeated bill to raise fuel-efficiency standards, to which Mr. Will referred, was sponsored not only by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), but also by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Instead of passing the bill, the Senate approved an amendment to boot the issue to the Energy Department.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), a co-sponsor of that amendment, said: "I don't want to tell the mom in my home state that she should not get an SUV because Congress decided that would be a bad choice."

Nor do I. But it's not "moral exhibitionism" or "anti-automobile" or "liberal" to be concerned about the effects of the large number of these vehicles or to question their exemption from the 1978 "gas guzzler" law -- an exemption worth billions of dollars that could have funded the roadways they're choking.




George F. Will's op-ed article " 'What Would Jesus Drive?' " was based on erroneous assumptions.

First, segments of mass transit are operated privately in every major U.S. metropolitan area. Indeed, both the London and New York subway systems, paradigms of government-held transport, were originally privately funded and operated. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested that London's "Tube" should again be privately owned.

Second, drivers, especially of SUVs, rely on the huge governmental apparatus that maintains and builds roads (not to mention the state agencies that prevent the unqualified from driving). The full cost of these larger vehicles in infrastructure repair has yet to be levied on taxpayers.

Finally, Jesus's example of borrowing "a fuel-guzzling and high-pollution conveyance" -- a donkey -- for the day was both economically and environmentally sound; after all, one rental of a sport utility vehicle is far cheaper and less polluting than ownership, even if a person owns a compact car as well.