State-Imposed Angst

Friday, January 30, 2009

I recently highlighted the following paragraph from an op-ed titled "Environmental Angst", by Keith Lockitch:

The only way to leave no "footprint" would be to die -- a conclusion that is not lost on many green ideologues. Consider the premise of the nonfiction bestseller titled "The World Without Us," which fantasizes about how the earth would "recover" if all humanity suddenly became extinct. Or, consider the chilling, anti-human conclusion of an op-ed discussing cloth versus disposable diapers: "From the earth's point of view, it's not all that important which kind of diapers you use. The important decision was having the baby." The next time you trustingly adopt a "green solution" like fluorescent lights, cloth diapers or wind farms, only to be puzzled when met with still further condemnation and calls for even more sacrifices, remember what counts as a final solution for these ideologues. [bold added]
As frequently happens when a culture adopts and implements immoral and impractical ideas, truth turns out be be stranger than fiction. An environmental agency in California, the California Air Resources Board, is threatening to kill off a nascent aftermarket industry that adds additional battery capacity with plug-in capability to such cars as Toyota Priuses (via Instapundit and gas 2.0):
The other potential problem with plug-in hybrids involves unburned gasoline vapors [The other was that hybrids "cold start" more than normal cars, and catalytic converters don't work well when cold. --ed] .... When gasoline-powered vehicles are turned off, some of the fuel in the gas tank evaporates. These vapors are stored in an adjacent canister built to hold up to three days worth of vapors. If you leave your car's engine turned off for more than three days, the canister overflows and the vapors leak into the air and cause pollution. But if you turn your car on before the three days are up, the canister vents the vapors through the engine, allowing the catalytic converter to clean the emissions before they come out of the tailpipe.

Most people typically don't keep their cars turned off for more than three days. But with a plug-in hybrid, it's possible for the gasoline engine to not turn on for days or even weeks at a time. That's especially true if drivers never hop on the freeway and don't otherwise exceed 34 mph. As a result, it's possible for plug-in hybrids to spew gasoline vapors out of the vapor canister on an almost-constant basis, turning a Prius into a gross polluter.

Consequently, air resources board engineers are recommending that plug-in hybrids undergo extensive cold-start emissions and gasoline-evaporation testing. According to agency documents, the tests likely will cost about $20,000 to $25,000 per vehicle. Swanton said in an interview that the board may only require that one vehicle be tested, but the agency's own documents state that the board may force companies to submit up to five test vehicles, meaning the total test costs could amount to $100,000 to $125,000.

Such tests would be prohibitively costly for small startups like 3Prong Power. They also appear to be somewhat capricious. Swanton said the agency's concerns stem in part from testing by at least one major auto manufacturer, which found significant pollution problems in cold-start emissions testing of its own plug-in hybrid prototypes. But the test results "are confidential," because they're considered trade secrets, he said. In other words, a state agency is about to adopt new regulations that could cause some companies to go bankrupt based on testing results that allegedly reveal a problem that it won't reveal publicly. ... [bold added]
And this is just one small excerpt from a much longer article that, needless to say, completely misses the fact that the market for unmodified hybrid cars would ether not exist at all or would be far smaller were it not for government interference in the economy! Remember that when, as you read the article, one environmentalist after another suddenly becomes a champion of free markets.

Environmental regulations are immoral and, as this story shows amply, impractical when human life is the standard of value -- even if smuggled in as the desire to drive with less exhaust. They violate property rights and, in doing so, set the stage for unlimited government meddling in the daily affairs of everyone, including all the little dictators who clamored for them in the first place. When you cede the premise that it is okay for the government to dictate terms to the citizens whose freedom it should be protecting, you open a Pandora's box and end up, in effect, uttering supplications to power-drunk bureaucrats, like the following:
[T]he board's attempt to strictly regulate plug-in hybrids flies in the face of the sweeping new regulations it adopted just last month to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things, the new rules will reduce the amount of carbon in motor fuels and require future cars to get better gas mileage. The regulations stemmed from a 2006 landmark law that put California at the forefront in the fight against global warming.

Clearly, the board's proposed regulations on plug-in hybrids are not in keeping with last month's vote, nor will they help California maintain its leadership role in combating greenhouse gases. It also makes no sense to snuff out the efforts of green entrepreneurs before they've even had a chance to grow.
Brothers, you asked for it! The moment you decided that your goal of clean air warranted forcing other people to change their behavior regardless of their best judgement of their own self-interest, you set the stage for that government gun to eventually point in your own direction.

-- CAV


z said...

FYI, Peter Schiff posted an essay entitled "A response to my critics" at his website. You can find the link on the home page under "Peter Schiff's economic commentary."

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. Someone else has mentioned that rebuttal and linked to it at the previous post.