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Bureaucratic Gasbags Little Help To Global Warming


Can carbon tax, higher fees be far behind?

Behold: Starting in 2009, new cars sold in California will carry a "global warming score."

Call it the Bureaucrats' Full Employment Act.

The new score is based on emissions and fuel consumption. This includes emissions produced by the vehicle when in use and emissions created by the production of the fuel needed to run it.

A car will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how it stacks up against other vehicles manufactured in the same year: the higher the score, the "cleaner" the vehicle.

The new score will be displayed next to the currently mandated smog score that rates cars on emissions produced. And don't forget the federal EPA estimate of fuel consumption for city and highway driving that's posted on the window of new cars in the showroom.

Lest you think the new global warming score is just another example of California wackiness, New York will adopt a similar score for the 2010 model year.

Is a "global warming score" needed? After all, millions of savvy car buyers would seek key information in publications such as Consumer Reports or Edmunds.

Let's see: Do the weight of the vehicle and the size of the engine have anything to do with, say, price, fuel consumption and smog-producing emissions?

Might the simple car buyer conclude that a Toyota (TM) Corolla with four cylinders would get better gas mileage and therefore blow less junk out the tailpipe than a Hummer built by General Motors (GM)? Or how about a gas-electric hybrid built by Toyota, Honda (HMC) or Ford (F), if you want to avoid frequent stops at your friendly Chevron (CVX) or Exxon-Mobil (XOM) station and are willing to pay a higher initial price for the car?

If the goal is to encourage environmentally friendly driving, why not base the annual registration fee on vehicle weight? This would create an instantly felt financial incentive to buy a smaller car that would consume less gas and create less pollution without expanding the portfolio of overzealous bureaucrats. That'd be good news for us plain folks - and the evil rich would pay a premium for their monster cars.

Some states base the registration fee on the car's age - the older the car, the lower the fee. If the goal is cleaner air, isn't that backward? Why not encourage the purchase of new cars by lowering the registration fee on new models while jacking the cost as the car ages and becomes less efficient? The way things now work, it's sometimes cheaper to register a 1970s land ark with few effective smog controls than a cleaner-running new car.

But relax: The new global warming scores could be the first step toward a carbon tax. This is sure to warm the hearts of tax-and-spend legislators everywhere. The European Union might even like the idea, but don't count on those rapacious capitalists in China and India.

California has all the ingredients needed to create smog: Lots of sunshine, millions of cars and high mountains to prevent the grey air cloud from dissipating. Think of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Francisco Bay Area (especially Silicon Valley) and the Central Valley's growing cities of Chico, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. It therefore makes sense for the state to take extra steps to reduce smog.

But keep in mind that state government had a hand in killing off extensive intercity electric trolley service in northern and southern California, thereby forcing people to drive on freeways. California's cities and suburbs aren't designed for walking and the public transportation system is generally inadequate.

In 2006, the state of California sued major automakers for their alleged contribution to global warming. Perhaps the attorney general should've sued the legislature for allocating funds to build the freeways. Luckily, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit the following year. In short, California has yet to prove that it's serious about fighting smog. And are we certain that "global warming" exists for the reasons stated by folks with a vested interest in promoting it?

But that's ancient history - California's 1950s freeway-building binge might as well be the Peloponnesian War, and the idea of government taking responsibility for its prior actions is just silly.

However, California's new global warming score makes sense: Without taxpayers, what would bureaucrats do?
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