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Smoke and mirrors, smog police style
Posted April 28, 2006

It’s been said that you can’t have too much of a good thing, but there are some notable exceptions to that aphorism. Fried foods, enthusiasm from news media personalities and prescription drugs all quickly come to mind, but one thing that is also dangerous in excess is a little old taxpayer-funded, state-operated agency called the California Air Resource Board.

Yes, I know, CARB has saved the state’s air from becoming a one-breath-and-you’re-dead wonder and inspired other governments around the country and the world to take similar measures, and I give the folks at CARB a standing ovation for doing so. However, in recent years, the agency seems to have become a hypocritical quasi-dictatorship that has a fetish for stomping on the toes of the private sector and some of the very things this country supposedly stands for.

Think I’m BS-ing you? Consider this: Over the last two months my parents and I have had to put roughly half of what my car is worth into repairs. Consequently, we’ve been contemplating the purchase of a new car for me sooner rather than later. My top pick would be a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with the sweet DSG transmission and XM Satellite Radio.

There’s just one slight problem: You can’t buy a Jetta TDI or any other new diesel-powered passenger car in California or the four New England states that subscribe to CARB’s stricter-than-EPA emissions standards.
Yes, there are ways to get around this rule, but they ain’t easy and they sure as hell ain’t cheap. Why CARB is so passionately committed to essentially banning a car that got 49.9 miles-per-gallon in a recent AutoWeek magazine real world comparison test (A Toyota Prius was actually 7.9 mpg thirstier in that same test.) while at the same time not batting an eyebrow as 7 mpg urban assault vehicles enter the Golden State by the truckload is rather baffling, don’t ya think?

But wait, there’s more! According to a recent study conducted by CARB itself, ocean-going ships that leave their gigantic diesel engines idling while in port pump out as much pollution as 350,000 automobiles. When you consider the fact that the three automakers currently selling diesel cars and light-duty SUVs in the other 45 states collectively did not sell even one-tenth that number of diesel vehicles last year, this whole de facto ban thing seems kind of empty.

And let’s not forget CARB’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate debacle of the mid-‘90s. Here’s the quick and dirty synopsis: CARB implemented a rule requiring that the major automakers selling their wares in California would have to build and market “zero emissions (read: electric) vehicles” in order to be allowed to continue doing business in California. The vehicles, despite being embraced by greenies and gullible tools alike, were colossal flops in the marketplace, costing automakers untold billions of dollars and failing to elicit even a cursory “Sorry!” from the folks at CARB.

Again, I am very concerned about the environment, and commend organizations like CARB for defending it. However, I condemn CARB and crew for attacking relatively minor threats (often screwing consumers in the process) while ignoring some bigger ones. (Sound familiar?) I just hope they can get their priorities straight before they legislate us back to the Stone Age…or worse.

Tom Anderson, a junior journalism major, is editorial director of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at tanderson1@ulv.edu.