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If one of the more extreme responses to global warming comes true, driving a sports car anywhere but on a racetrack might be relegated to history's dustbin.

Within a few years, fast, powerful cars may be outlawed in Europe, an idea that has been raised ostensibly because Ferraris and Porsches produce too much carbon dioxide. For those who abhor sports cars as vulgar symbols of affluence (along with vacation homes, furs and fancy jewelry), such a ban could be a twofer: saving the planet while cutting economic inequality.

Who are these people anyway who decide on behalf of everyone what car is proper to drive? In the United States, they're members of Congress, which is considering fuel-efficiency standards that will affect vehicle size. In Europe, it's the ministers and parliamentarians of the European Union, which wants to limit how much CO2 cars can emit as a proxy for a fuel-consumption standard.

Chris Davies, a British member of the European Parliament, is proposing one of the most-extreme measures - a ban on any car that goes faster than 162 kilometers (101 miles) an hour, a speed that everything from the humble Honda Civic on up can exceed. He ridiculed fast cars as "boys' toys."

The proposed ban would take effect in 2013. Davies told the Guardian newspaper that "cars designed to go at stupid speeds have to be built to withstand the effects of a crash at those speeds. They are heavier than necessary, less fuel-efficient and produce too many emissions."

His last point is telling, even though there are many reasons why cars are heavier, including safety measures such as air bags and steel-reinforced crumple zones.

The idea is to limit CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas blamed for causing the Earth's temperature to rise.

But the debate isn't just about how much carbon dioxide to allow into the atmosphere and whether the amount actually matters. It's also about the disdain some hold for the size or speed of the cars others drive.

"Automobiles always seem to be the focus, even though they only consume 15 percent or 20 percent of energy," said Csaba Csere, editor of Car & Driver magazine.

The folks against sports cars in Europe and big sport utility vehicles in the United States often are the same ones who hate trappings of Western-style wealth and energy use.

Do people demonize these goods because they can't afford them? Or because they think others shouldn't have them? Proposals to limit carbon dioxide often sound like basic opposition to prosperity.