Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The War on Drivers

A review of the bureaucratic paperwork, questionable environmental regulations, and other nonsense.

With all of this hot air about the EPA's overeaching, via court decisions, regarding the regulation of CO2, and all the hyperbolic horsepucky spewed out by people like Barbara Boxer, I thought this was timely, even if it was written 12 years ago. It still fits like a glove. RK

By Alan Caruba

Like most Americans, I had always been vaguely aware that the cost of owning a car, buying a new one, and the general use of cars nationwide, had been rising for years. There were, in addition, new obstacles and restrictions being imposed.

This became evident once again in December 1998 when the Environmental Protection Agency began to institute hefty fines on owners of the nation's gasoline stations and others who store fuel, as The New York Times reported, "in potentially leaky underground tanks..." The key word here is "potentially." According to the EPA, an estimated 400,000 tanks, which may or may not be leaking anything, remain after that agency had taken action to either ban the use or require the replacement of some 600,000 tanks.

The significance of this for drivers is that an estimated 70,000 gasoline stations are still deemed out of compliance, something that can cost between $100,000 and $200,000 to achieve. Many small communities throughout the nation will simply lose access to their only gasoline station. Already across the nation, many dealers have elected to stop providing gas and depend solely on auto repair for income. For countless Americans, particularly in rural areas, filling up is going to become a major problem.

Over the years, motorists have had to accept traffic that slows to a crawl thanks to HOV lanes and even mandatory car-pooling regulations. These costs and annoyances had crept up on all Americans in incremental stages, each seeming to come from the need to "clean up the air", "become more energy effficient", and "increase the use of mass transit."

It didn't seem to matter that, preceding and during the decades this was occurring, the movement of people and businesses to the suburbs had increased dramatically or that, for most people, average commuting time to work by car was barely ten to twenty minutes. It didn't matter that most suburban-based moms spent most of their trips chauffeuring their children or husbands around. Work commutes for women, for example, constitute only 18%, dwarfed by personal trips at 46%, necessitated by day-care, school, going to the market or dry cleaners, and other everyday tasks.

It didn't seem to matter that, by 1998, most major cities such as Cleveland, Boston, and Chicago, had achieved the biggest percentage drop in average days per year that violated federal air standards. The air is getting cleaner.

Slowly, I became aware of a virtual war on drivers (and truckers) being orchestrated by the Federal government which, in turn, imposed mandates upon the States.

Then, while reading Al Gore, Jr's book, Earth In The Balance, I became aware of the astonishing agenda behind the problems drivers were incurring. He wrote that "it ought to be possible to establish a coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a twenty-five year period." (Emphasis added) Or, to put it another way, by the year 2018!

"We now know," Gore wrote of cars and trucks, "that their cumulative impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the security of every nation we are ever again likely to confront." (Emphasis added) This is nuts!

Gore, however, was simply putting in print one of the most fundamental goals of the worldwide environmental movement which, in the United States, gained governmental status when the EPA was established in 1970 and, worldwide, through the granting of "Non-Governmental Organization" status by the United Nations to countless environmental organizations. They, in turn, literally create international policy through UN-sponsored treaties such as the recent Kyoto treaty on climate control which would impose huge energy use restrictions on the U.S. while exempting nations such as China and India.

Consider what occurred under the Clinton-Gore administration. Despite the fact that the air has been showing extraordinary improvements since the 1970's laws went into effect, the EPA actually imposed tighter rules for emissions of "smog causing gases and soot from cars and light trucks beginning in 20004," as reported in April 1998 by The New York Times.

But why? Eric Peters, an authority on transportation issues, in a December 22, 1998 article that appeared in The Washington Times, pointed out that, "Since at least the mid-1980's, new cars and trucks have been equipped with an impressive array of computer-controlled anti-pollution hardware that is largely self-policing," adding that "current model year cars and trucks are equipped with systems that surpass the computer power of the Lunar Module."

Despite this, State by State, car and truck owners must submit to intensive inspections which literally test themselves every time the ignition key is turned! Moreover, less than five percent (5%) of all currently registered vehicles are cars older than model year 1980. Those older cars, even if they did pollute, would contribute an infinitesimal amount.

Ironically, the catalytic converter, an invention that has sharply reduced smog caused by auto emissions, was deemed "a growing cause of global warming" by the EPA, according to a New York Times article in April 1998! The article reported that, "This spring, the EPA published a study estimating that nitrous oxide now accounts for about 7.2 percent of the gases that cause global warming." Unreported, as is always the case with The New York Times, was the fact that there is no global warming. The earth hasn't warmed at all for the past fifty years. The global warming theory was discredited in 1998 by the man who first introduced it to Congress in 1988.

In short, it doesn't matter how energy efficient and non-polluting cars are or will be, the EPA quite simply will always raise the bar, even if it means condemning the very technology that makes cars operate to produce cleaner emissions.

More ominous, because the vast bult of all goods manufactured and sold in the U.S. is moved by truck, was the EPA announcement, also in April 1998, that "exhaust from the (diesal) engines probably causes cancer in humans." The feds are now gearing up to include the nation's trucking system in its war on drivers. This is madness.

It doesn't end there. By the summer of 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was advocating replacing all light trucks, i.e. pickups, minivans, and sport-utility vehicles, with cars because it would, they said, save 2,000 lives each year. More people drown each year just taking a swim. The NHTSA had earlier proposed putting safety belts and other devices on golf cars! The lunatics are running the asylum!

What really is happening on our highways and roads? Well, in 1997, the death rate on the nation's roads fell to a record low. The U.S. Department of Transportation concluded there were 1.6 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. Mind you, this occurred despite efforts to get Americans to use trains and other mass transit. For example, the future of Amtrak is even more shaky. Since its inception in 1970, the number of miles traveled by car has risen by two thirds to more than 2.6 trillion.

In December 1998, New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman publicly celebrated the end of a long fight with the EPA which ended the imposition of HOV lanes on two major thoroughfares. The State's largest circulation newspaper, which had championed an end to the HOV's, reported that "traffic was moving better on Route 80 than it has in years. Same for most of Route 287." This in a State with the highest population density in the nation and where more cars are owned than there are people.

The EPA's coersive threat to deny New Jersey taxpayers their own money to improve their own highway system had been thwarted. Now, we have to do this in every State in the Union. And we have until 2004 to rescind the new EPA clean air restrictions.

We need to understand that the air is getting cleaner, that cars not only pollute far less, but monitor their own emissions, that raising speed limits has not led to more deaths, that just about everything the EPA and other federal agencies have been telling us is a lie.

Mostly, however, we have to understand that, at the highest levels of government, aided and abetted by the worldwide environmental movement, there has been and continues to be a war on drivers.

© 1999 Alan Caruba.

All Rights Reserved.

Alan’s work has a sense of timelessness about it, so anyone perusing these articles in the future will find them equally insightful as they were when originally written. For Alan's latest thoughts go to his blog, Warning Signs. For his past works go to The National Anxiety Center. I would also recommend reading his last book, Right Answers.

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