TCS Daily

California's Dreaming

By Brock Yates - July 24, 2002 12:00 AM

Things are about to get ugly in California. And we don't mean the worsening situation surrounding the egregious MTV chronicle of the Ozzie Osbourne family or the shocking revelations surrounding the depraved murder of little Samantha Runnuin by the current poster body for the death penalty, Alejandro Avila.

The real unpleasantness lies ahead now that Governor Gray Davis signs a bill that will allegedly reduce greenhouse gases issuing from automobiles. The legislation, which has been created by the Green Geeks on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) seeks to expunge carbon dioxide from automobile exhausts. The stringent new rules will take effect in 2009, presumably giving the automakers sufficient time to totally redesign car engines and drive trains.

The CARB bureaucrats, who never designed, built, sold or even repaired an automobile claim the goal is easy to reach with current technology involving variable valve timing, continuously variable transmissions and other high-tech goodies.

But the car-makers, both imported and domestic, have formed the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to fight such nuisances. They claim that a universal conversion to such low CO2 engines would cost the consumer billions for a minimal emissions reduction while reducing safety with smaller, flimsier cars. They accuse CARB of using the entire campaign as a back-door tactic to increase fuel mileage now that Congress has shut the door on increases in the so-called CAFE standards.

While the Detroiters and the importers are often at loggerheads, they are united on this front. There are thirteen major manufacturers standing against the California government. Their sentiments were best expressed by Jim Olson, Toyota's North American Senior VP for External and Regulatory affairs. He recently told "Automotive News" that "I deeply resent the enviros putting us in the light of (environmental backsliders) because we do not agree with the pace at which they want to do things. We aren't anti-environment." This, by the way, comes from the spokesmen for an automobile company that is in the forefront of technology and markets one of the first hybrid cars (the Prius) while hard at work on fuel-cell research.

Aside from serious arguments that global warming is a shibboleth at the worst, and at best a simple cycle of natural forces unrelated to human activity, there is the likelihood that such a low level of CO2 cannot be reached by 2009.

In the early 1990's CARB demanded that at least ten percent of all California motor vehicles be zero-emission electrics. This was absurdly chimerical in that no technology exists that permits electric cars to run more than 100 miles between battery recharging that requires 5-6 hours. To think otherwise is to believe in perpetual motion and alchemy.

Faced with this reality, CARB has been forced to back down on the zero-emission ruling but now has bamboozled the California legislature and the Governor into end-running the electric car farce by demanding draconian reductions in CO2.

Even if the pols make the new regulations into what they think is an air-tight law, the automakers are sure to fight back, at the very least with vigorous court challenges and perhaps with a state-wide voter referendum. They will of course make the case that ultra-clean, small displacement engines of the kind mandated by the carbon dioxide rulings would kill most SUV's, light trucks and high-performance sports cars and sedans. They would be replaced only by small, light, unsafe, and costly vehicles.

The referendum would require gathering 420,000 signatures to get on the state ballot and would cost at least $20 million. A cautionary note: A vigorous, multi-million-dollar advertising campaign to discourage the CO2 law failed to dissuade the public.

In a state that is totally dependent on the motor vehicle and where mass transit, including buses and light rail, accounts for less then ten percent of all commuting, the notion of radically altering the vehicle mix through legislation borders on insanity. If the law ever comes into effect (and it could, like the zero-emissions scam, be simple political posturing) Californians would be required to drive compacts exclusively, which in turn would radically alter not only the multi-billion-dollar car business but would cause a ripple effect throughout the entire Golden State economy.

Meanwhile the environmental blame game escalates. But no one in Sacramento or among the greens has yet to explain why from 1940 through 1970, during which the world was engulfed in World War Two and after which automobile populations exploded around the globe with little or no emission controls, the climate cooled while the solons of science fretted over thoughts of a New Ice Age.

Perhaps before the lunatic law goes into effect, somebody in the environmental movement can square their facts with the recent study by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change that claims there is no evidence that global warming is relatable to the increase in the atmosphere's CO2 content.

Add to that the signatures of no less than 17,000 scientists on a petition by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine that states, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating to the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate."

But wait a minute. If the Chicken Littles are correct, let's not forget that carbon dioxide is the key plant growth. Presumably a CO2 rich atmosphere aids agriculture. If you're confused by the efforts of Gov. Gray and the pols in Sacramento, imagine how the ranchers and farmers who have made California the richest, most productive source of food in the world feel.



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