When we were out in Oregon there was a story on the news that caught my interest, out of the corner of my eye, about Jeff “Free” Luers being released from prison.
Luers was arrested and convicted for setting fire to three vehicles back in 2000. The guy was trying to make a protest statement about global warming. Over the past decade I saw his name pop up regularly in the pages of Fifth Estate, but I wasn’t really familiar with the details of his case.
Turns out he was sentenced to 22 years in prison . This was later reduced to ten years. He served nine and a half before his release last month. In weird twist, he was mistakenly released in October, then taken back into custody after six hours.
The 22-year sentence was way out of proportion to the crime committed, but I can’t condone his actions. Surely there are more creative ways to create the media spectacle he desired, that wouldn’t exact such a heavy price on his personal freedom. However, I do have to admit it led to a discussion with my co-workers back in 2000 about how SUVs guzzle gasoline and how our rapacious consumption of fossil fuels is generally not good. So who knows? Maybe Luers was on to something. He could have plea-bargained, and he chose not to. His interview on Democracy Now is worth a look.
(All of that serves as an introduction of sorts to what follows.)
I really don’t like cars much. In my opinion automotive technology has had a deleterious effect on America and the world. But it’s a sad fact that I couldn’t imagine living in New Orleans without a car. All other contingencies to the side, we need one to evacuate. I’m certainly not going to rely on the “public option” to get out of town when a storm’s coming. And so, as long as we live here, we will be car-owners, more’s the pity.
Since Xy trashed our car a few weeks ago, we’ve been in the market. We decided we wanted something with a lot of ground clearance, the better to handle that pesky street flooding. Since we might need to haul three cats and a rabbit on an evacuation, an SUV started to seem like the best option. Xy and I have always despised the craze for Urban Assault Vehicles; we certainly never thought we’d own one.
I decided that if we went that route we’d need to get a hybrid. That narrowed the field considerably. Searching online, I found one for sale from Banner Ford in Mandeville, a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid with 29,000 miles. I negotiated the price over the phone over the course of last Wednesday morning, talking them down from $20K to $19K. I tried for $18K but they held fast and I caved first. Anyway I was happy with the price, so I drove up to the North Shore and bought it.
I realized upon the return trip that this is the first vehicle I’ve been even vaguely excited about owning in over twenty years — since I got my first car.
Of course our new ride is a little bit nicer than the Voodoo Wagon, but mainly I just think the hybrid technology is kind of cool. Pulling up to a stop and hearing — nothing, because the engine isn’t running. That’s wild. Is it the way of the future? I don’t know. I understand those lithium batteries present a new sort of environmental liability. I need to find out more about that.
In the mean time I’m looking forward to having better and more reliable transportation at our disposal.
Big thanks to everybody who gave me advice on what and how to buy. Some people advised me to steer away from dealerships entirely, but I found private sellers just didn’t have what we wanted, and in the final analysis I don’t think we got screwed too badly.
One final footnote: The vehicles Luers torched in 2000 were not actually SUVs but light trucks for a commercial fleet. The reportage on this story has consistently said they were SUVs, and I thought that was the case, but apparently not. I just felt compelled to correct that detail.