I've noticed that the vast majority of vehicles I see sporting the Keep Tahoe Blue bumper sticker are SUVs.

Does this cognitive dissonance not register with anyone else?

I've even spotted it on two Hummers in the Bay Area. But never once have I seen one on a hybrid auto like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight.

Is this some inside joke I'm not aware of?

Posted by jzawodn at January 21, 2005 10:58 AM

Reader Comments
# Evan Robinson said:

People who camp or ski are likely to own SUVs. People who drive into the mountains in the winter are likely to own SUVs.

It's important to remember that some SUV owners actually require (and use!) their 4WD for legitimate purposes (our 1/4 mile of dirt road driveway near Half Moon Bay during the wet winter comes to mind, as does our steep street here in North Vancouver when it gets several centimeters of snow on it).

Furthermore, it's also valuable to note that the Ford Explorer we bought in 1994 or 5 to replace a Ford Taurus actually got slighly better gas mileage.

Certainly many (if not most) SUVs are used as large station wagons and never taken off a clean paved road (hell, some of them never drive on wet roads!). Many of them are more car (in terms of carrying capacity) than the owner needs.

But some SUV owners do require that volume or hauling capability. Some require the blend of farm pickup truck and family wagon that the SUV was created to be.

Please don't lump us into the same category as the marketing dweeb who uses his Hummer to commute everyday from Palo Alto to San Jose and never drives it on slick or muddy surfaces, never hauls anything other than himself and maybe an SO or a couple bags of groceries.

So no, I don't think it's any kind of joke. People who go up into the mountains want carrying capacity and 4WD, and those people may actually love Lake Tahoe just as much as people who walk up into the Sierra instead of driving to make sure they don't hurt the environment.

on January 21, 2005 11:27 AM
# Stephan Segraves said:

I agree, a lot of people have SUVs for valid reasons (myself included). There are parts of Lubbock and West Texas that are inaccessible without 4WD and when it rains here if you do not have a truck or SUV you more than likely will not be leaving your house.

Granted, I own an older SUV ('92 full size Bronco) but it does its job well without burning as much gas as some of these new SUVs that serve no real purpose. You also have to think of it this way, those people with the SUVs are paying for it because of gas prices, soon it will get to the point where only the people who really need an SUV will have one because it is expensive.

on January 21, 2005 11:33 AM
# funjon said:

A coworker and I saw the funniest thing the other day - a Hummer H2 parked in a compact car parking slot.

It's just sad.

on January 21, 2005 11:47 AM
# Dave Dash said:

Hehe, people who don't have a legitimate reason for having an SUV should get a special identifying sticker... you know, so people can quickly spot what vehicles they should key ;)

on January 21, 2005 12:05 PM
# Christopher Baus said:

Oh man don't get me started. This the biggest joke in Tahoe. I've lived up here for 6 years, and the politics around keeping the lake clear are ridiculous. If I told you what home owners have to go through, your little plumbing problem would seem trivial.

SUVs ARE the problem! There is no doubt in my mind about this. The biggest problem in tahoe is air born nitrogen. Were does that come from? Exhaust from Sacramento and the Bay Area. The rest of the problem dirty run off. Where does that come from? Roads.

So while us homeowners have to go through hell to keep our homes up to regulations, everyone and their sister from Nebraska can drive around town with a "KEEP TAHOE BLUE" sticker on their 1985 Jeep Cherokee which is spewing oil all over the place.

The whole thing makes me sick!

Plus there is NO decent public transportation in Tahoe which just make the problem worse.

You just pushed my hot button.

on January 21, 2005 12:16 PM
# Darren said:

How does that old Don Henley song go:

"Out on the road today, I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac."

on January 21, 2005 12:17 PM
# jr said:

I'm a big fan of having to qualify for vehicles you wish to drive, much like having a drivers license doesn't qualify you to drive a motorcycle.

This means that if you have an SUV because you *need* an SUV, it's trivial for you to qualify because you're smart enough to realize that you don't drive over tree filled, rough terrain at 60 miles an hour like they do in those truck commercials. It also means you're well aware of the size and mass of the vehicle you're driving and aren't likely to send it over a cliff on wet roads because you think 4WD makes you stop faster.

(It also means you don't put those stupid tiny sidewall racing tires on your H2 because you realize that the wheels do a fair amount of shock handling.)

Still, I have to agree with Jeremy only because i live here too. There are a LOT of those stickers on the mall-assault, tiny tired, ski rack absent, way too clean, bloated sports cars than on the all wheel drive buggers that might actually be of use up in Tahoe.

on January 21, 2005 12:23 PM
# Christopher Baus said:


You DO NOT need an SUV to live in Tahoe. You might really want AWD. I drive a subaru. It is far better in the snow than most SUVs. Hint: low center of gravity, light weight, and narrow, tall, tires, are your friends in snow.

The problem is lack of density that is enforced by the environmental agencies (TRPA) which forces everyone into their cars, and housing prices as high as the bay area.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here.

on January 21, 2005 12:35 PM
# rr said:

> The biggest problem in tahoe is air born nitrogen. Were does that come from? Exhaust from Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Uh, air is 78% nitrogen. Cars are not putting nitrogen into Lake Tahoe.

on January 21, 2005 01:57 PM
# Christopher Baus said:
on January 21, 2005 02:37 PM
# Christopher Baus said:

From UC Davis:

Air Pollution. There were approximately 23 million visitor days at Lake Tahoe in 1995. Many visitors drove their cars to and around the lake and use the fireplaces in their condominiums and cabins. Automobile emissions and wood burning have increased measurable levels of nitrogen, ozone, acid rain and other pollutants. In addition, nitrogen and chemical residues blow into the basin from outside sources. The infiltration of these air pollutants was vividly demonstrated when prized Tahoe lake trout were found to contain low levels of toxic organic compounds and deep water sediments showed elevated concentrations of mercury and lead - both directly attributable to their presence in the basin's air.

on January 21, 2005 02:40 PM
# John Dowdell said:

I don't know how long you've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, but this is actually an easy one to answer: it's not any particular behavior which is objectionable, it's just those other people who are doing it which are the real problem.

"We are the good people; those others are the bad people." That's pretty much the long and short of it.

For instance, the air has been hazy with pollution alerts in SF the last week... people are burning a lot of wood in fireplaces during this cold snap. Heaven forbid that a bar owner would like to open a pipe-friendly or cigar-friendly business, however... that cannot be permitted.

on January 21, 2005 02:53 PM
# Greg K. said:

I always thought SUV drivers with environmental, John Kerry, no war in Iraq stickers were very hypocritical. But of course a mantra central to liberals is "do as I say not as I do."

on January 21, 2005 08:16 PM
# rr said:

Christopher, those quotes don't say anything quantitative about SF/Sac air pollution having anything to do with Tahoe clarity. There may be some amount of particulates, heavy metals, and acid (from SOx and NOx) being rained into the lake, but the nutrient nitrogen is coming in with water inflows.

on January 21, 2005 08:37 PM
# Aristotle said:

Greg: and republicans are exempt from that how?

Hypocrisy is universal and pervasive.

on January 22, 2005 09:44 AM
# Kendall Willets said:

The phrase "SUV Environmentalist" has been around for a number of years. It is not a compliment.

California actually has a John Muir freeway, so irony has long fled the scene.

on January 22, 2005 05:07 PM
# Anjan said:


Your point about AWD is correct but you cannot apply it as a blanket statement. Many SUVs give as good a mileage as your Subaru (assuming you have a Outback 3.0). My MDX gives 24mpg on the highway. So even though its a bigger vehicle, an efficient engine makes the difference.

And that is the crucial point to be made. Older inefficient engines with bad mileage and worse emissions should be phased out. Its mind blowing to see car companies pushing 30 year old engine designs in your face as something fashionable (Annoying Hemi ads come to mind)!! Good technologies like Hybrid engines or IMAs (Integrated Motor Assist) are not as appealing as a disgusting huge pickup with 8 liter engine blowing the doors off of other cars.

on January 24, 2005 10:02 AM
# rr said:

And your (and my) MDX is putting out 3-4lbs of smog-forming crap per 15K miles (a bit worse than the Prius/Insight but better than the vast majority of even the '05 model year cars) and one-tenth what the big SUVs (Suburban, Expedition, H2, etc.) put out (~40lbs).

All SUVs (and cars, for that matter) are not remotely equal when it comes to smog-forming emissions (CO2, of course, is just an MPG thing). The EPA Green Vehicle guide is a good source.

on January 24, 2005 04:34 PM
# tm said:

Great comments, but a little out of date. Sure, auto/truck emissions are detrimental, but not as guilty as once believed. Phosphorus and fine sediments have become the focal point of most science concerning loss of clarity at the Lake, which is being shown to be phosphorus-limited (see http://tiims.org for most recent research info on Tahoe's health). That means that introduction of phosphorus at this point has the most impact on algal growth (per Redfield Ratio theory).
Erosion or run-off containing road dust (especially after winter road treatment) and fine sediments that introduce phosphorus are suspected culprits. "Smog" from the Sac and San Joaquin Valleys were recently found to have little impact on air and water quality in the Basin. Locally-generated wood smoke (with wood particulates that are not fully combusted) also contribute phosphorus, as do improperly treated or over fertilized gardens and lawns.

on February 1, 2005 08:58 PM
# Dave C. said:

This may not apply directly to Tahoe's water quality, but many large SUV drivers are under the false impression that CO2 emissions are covered in smog tests. In reality, poorer gas mileage means more carbon dioxide spewed into the air, even in so-called LEVs. Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) status shouldn't be used as a rationalization for driving gas guzzlers.

The underlying threat to Tahoe is too many people crammed into a finite space. It's the same thing that's messing up the quality of life elsewhere in California and the rest of the world. But most people are still afraid to discuss the obvious for fear of offending breeders.

on February 6, 2005 02:48 PM
# Eric said:

Keep in mind many of the larger SUVs are not supposed to be on any roads w/ a 6,000lb limit...
This includes, but is not limited to, the Chevy Surburban, Chevy Tahoe, Range Rover, GMC Yukon, Toyota Lnad Cruiser, Toyota Sequoia, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes M Class, Porsche Cayenne S, BMW x5 and of course the Hummer & H2.

on July 14, 2005 10:56 AM
# Chris said:

I also noticed an awful lot of big vehicles during a recent trip to Tahoe, and I was especially sensitive because I was in one! We flew into San Jose and had reserved a compact car. Guess what- they were already out of everything but 4 SUVs and 2 minivans. We had to pick up our friends in San Francisco and drive across the state to Tahoe in a less-efficient vehicle than I would ever have wanted to because everyone who got there before me was trying to drive a modestly-sized vehicle too!

on September 6, 2005 11:24 AM
# Joe Hevner said:

I was just there last weekend, and I was driving behind a Ford pickup with an oil burning problem,
It had the same sticker.
I had to laugh.

on December 27, 2005 01:13 AM
# Kent said:

Born, raised, & live in Tahoe city. Actualy if you want to know the real joke, us locals grab stacks of those stickers and make new ones out of them. Such creations I've made:
"Eat Taco Bell"
"Keep 2nd home owners out"
"Keep Tahoe Local"
"Lake Tahoe Lowlife"
Other's my friends have made:
"Keep Tahoe 1337"
"Keep Gapers Out"
"Keep Enviornmentalists Out"
"Born in Tahoe"

As far as all people who sport the stickers driving SUV's. Well, honestly, if you live in Tahoe, you MUST own a 4x4 SUV or AWD Suberu. Now, someone PLEASE tell this to my best friend since before I can remember, who has a 2wd ford pickup. If it's winter and your in Tahoe without a SUV/Suberu, you're and idiot. Simple as that.

Oh yeah, noone I know who lives in tahoe owns a "Tahoe", nice marketing scheme though. What increased the clarity of the lake was banning outboard 2stroke boats from the lake (damn that, had to sell my boat), but it did a lot. We also have lots of drainage ponds we've built around the lake to help with runoff. Thanks federal tax $!

Oh yeah! We had ONE stop light in the town for what? 15 years? (that I can remember), now theres like three! Screw that! And screw the two round-abouts they built under I-80 in truckee. There has been about 5 homes built in the last 8 years in Tahoe, why do we need more stop lights? Fcking 2nd homeowners.

on January 8, 2006 09:20 AM
# Chris said:

Got to this blog randomly, and this is an old thread, but I feel strongly enough about this to add my two cents. I think the most intelligent comment on the subject so far has been from Dave C. Feb 6, 2005.

The underlying issue is population.

More people moving into and visiting Tahoe will have a negative environmental effect, just like anywhere else. If you want to keep the wilderness pristine, don't let anyone go there. You could eliminate cars completely from Tahoe, but put the population of New York City in there and the lake is still going to be messed up.

I think a reasonable balance can be found, and that incentives to help the environment are welcome. But what I don't understand is the LEVEL of indignity which many so called environmentalists have found over the dreaded SUV.

There are many other contributors to environmental problems. Do you rant about the incredible amount of fast food waste? Do you throw away plastic containers? Do you use disposable diapers? Do you burn wood in your fireplace?

My point is that different people try to help the situation in their own way. I use recycled products, I try to minimize garbage, I carpool, I have a gas fireplace. Oh and by the way I have an '84 Jeep CJ. Does that mean I shouldn't buy a bumpersticker to contribute money to help the League to Save the Lake? Or maybe I just shouldn't put it on my old emissions spewing car because it is so hypocritical that I can't afford a new $20k+ Prius.

Maybe we should take up a fight against anyone who hasn't been coming to the Lake for the past 20 yrs including those new to California Prius driving do-gooders in their million dollar new Tahoe homes.

I for one think the impact on the Lake would be less if no new development were allowed and everyone were allowed to drive Hummers to get here. Keep Tahoe Blue.

on January 28, 2006 07:20 AM
# chris tennant said:

Why wont you post my comment? please at least email me and tell me why

on January 28, 2006 04:29 PM
# Mick said:

I'm keeping Tahoe Blue in my own way by promoting the use of 2000 Flushes.

on March 25, 2006 03:48 PM
# Taylor said:

I actually stumbled across this blog when I was trying to find a "Keep Tahoe Blue" Sticker. I just bought my third Subaru and I don't think I could own anything else. Nothing is more practical. I can carry five people, put anything and everything in the trunk, I have AWD, I have more ground clearance than a Ford Explorer, and I get 29 MPG consistently. Not to mention when I go to trade it in in three years, I will not take a huge loss in value. --- My mom drives an MDX and gets 13 MPG. So don't compare the two. -- P.S. - it is kind of funny that you saw an H2 with Tahoe sticker on it. And I liked the comment about SUV's with big rims being "Bloated Sports Cars."

on August 11, 2006 06:56 PM
# Dan Galangus said:

People who drive Suv's are simply idiots. People who drive SUV's with keep Tahoe Blue Stickers on them are the most ignorant form of human scum. Hypocrisy at it's finest; not even aware they are a driving joke. I live in Tahoe City and I guarantee you from personal experience, that locals go out of their way to F*ck with SUV's that adorn the stickers. This may involve keying, spitting, pissing on and basically anything else we can to make your SUV worth less. If you're dumb enough to think that you're making our lake any cleaner with your very presence, let alone your SUV, than prepare for your vehicle to get Sh*t on.

on August 23, 2006 12:25 AM
# Larry said:

This is my biggest pet peeve. Nobody, and I mean nobody, NEEDS to drive an SUV. They want to drive one and then come up with a set of lame of rationalizations to justify it.

If your driving an SUV with a Keep Tahoe Blue bumper sticker, you are a hypocrite. Period. End of story.

on July 24, 2007 07:03 AM
# Zeek said:

If you are serious about keeping Tahoe blue you will ditch the gas guzzler and put chains on a fuel efficient 2wd car during winter.

on November 11, 2007 11:40 PM
# Dan said:

I find nothing more amusing than putting someone in their place after they call me a hypocrite for driving an SUV and having a Keep Tahoe Blue sticker on the back. I live in Sacramento now but I grew up in Lake Tahoe, and anyone who hasn't lived through a Tahoe winter really needs to stop wasting their breath about how hypocritical the whole idea is.

First off, anyone who has tried to put chains on anywhere knows just how hellish of a task it can be, but it's even worse in a place like Tahoe. You'll have a week where conditions are nice and the roads are dry only to wake up to a foot of snow the next day. Trying to put chains is a dirty, painstaking, and above all dangerous task (I had a neighbor who got caught up in a storm on his way from work and was actually killed by a passing car trying to put on chains).

Secondly, I purchased my SUV from a neighbor when I was 16 because it was a big car that could trudge through the snow pretty easily and had great road clearance (which is the most important factor when trying to drive in the snow IMO). I as well grew up in a neighborhood that wasn't regularly plowed and a lot of the time the only way to get out was to mosh through it all. But the biggest factor of why I purchased an SUV is because it was cheaper than any "Efficient 2wd car". Simple fact is, any truly efficient car that will work in Tahoe is out of most people's price range (EX: I saw a Hybrid Tahoe a few weeks ago that had a sticker price over 50 Gs while regular Tahoe's were sitting around the mid 20s). And anyone who thinks a 2wd can handle it is completely nuts. In fact, I can't say I've ever really seen any efficient 2wd car in the snow. I've used my SUV to pull out quite a few chained up 2wd cars, some of them bigger cars like Pathfinders even. And to add to that, sure, I wouldn't mind ditching the SUV for something smaller, but at this point I can't afford to.

But most importantly, I am a Lake Tahoe local and will always be. I spent winters boarding the mountains and summers swimming in the lake. I worked at local businesses such as KTHO and Camp Richardson catering to smug tourists who had no respect whatsoever for my home. I graduated from STMS and STHS. I helped friends evacuate their homes in the summer of 07 and stood with them and fought the blaze with garden hoses. I am a Lake Tahoe Local and am darn proud of it. And if I wanna show that off by putting up a sticker promoting the health of my home, then I will, no matter what I drive. And if you don't like it, you can respectfully turn your hybrid around and go back to the Bay Area.

on February 23, 2009 01:29 AM
# Tahoe Native said:

Live and let live! You enjoy your life and let others enjoy theirs! I have a lifted SUV because I drive on unmaintained/unplowed roads at Tahoe in the winter and need it. If it wasn't for my kids, dogs and all the stuff I need to carry around I would have something smaller like a Subaru, but that doesn't work with my family's lifestyle!Don't pass judgement on others since you have no idea what their life is about! How about if you go with what Tahoe is about and smile, wave and say hello to people and stop being rude city people who have something to prove!

on November 19, 2009 11:04 AM
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