It may not be the final piece needed to balance the state budget, but Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's recent decision to limit state use and ownership of sport utility vehicles is on the right track. He's given orders that will reduce the number of SUVs in the state fleet, saving money on gas in the process. If every little moneysaving effort counts, add this one to the tally.

Some lawmakers and political activists have long lobbied for eliminating the state motor pool. Kulongoski did not go that far. While the purported savings from eliminating the pool are suspect, it is reasonable to believe that some inefficiencies exist in the system that should be addressed. SUV ownership is one of those inefficiencies. The vehicles are, almost without exception, gas guzzlers, for one thing.

Larger models may get as little as 12 miles to the gallon around town, with somewhat, but not substantially, better mileage achieved on the open road. Too, larger models are designed to seat up to nine people or a large amount of cargo; frequently they carry only a driver and, perhaps, a coffee cup.

Moreover, SUVs make up about 18 percent of the state's 7,300-vehicle motor pool.

SUVs do serve a purpose, though, and Kulongoski's order reflects that. The vehicles will not be sold off outright. Instead, their use will be limited to those who really need the vehicles, either because of the weather or road conditions or because they need the cargo space, and no new SUVs will be purchased. They still have a role; Kulongoski is just better-defining it.

SUVs serve a purpose in the world, and, more particularly, in this region. That purpose does not necessarily include everyday business driving, however. Now the state of Oregon will limit its use of the largest passenger vehicles on the road to the kinds of things they were designed for. That saves money, and it makes sense.

- From The Bulletin, Bend

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