California dreaming – or nightmaring?
By John Nichols
Attention Delaware drivers. Effective with model year 2014, all new vehicles sold in Delaware shall comply with California emissions standards. Delaware standards are no longer sufficient. New “green” standards make First State emission rules more stringent than even Federal regulations.
Thus spoke Delaware Secretary of Natural Resource and Environmental Control Colin O’Mara, in issuing his December 11, 2010 Order No. 2010-A-0039, amending Title 7 of the Delaware Administrative Code.
The new program will bring “considerable benefits to human health and the environment,” asserts a news release issued by Secretary O’Mara, a self proclaimed “energy entrepreneur” from California. However, since current model year cars already emit 95% fewer emissions than their 1970 predecessors, actual health and environmental improvements are likely to be minimal.
Thus an additional justification for the edict is the claim that it will protect planet Earth against “dangerous global warming.” That is equally dubious.
What is certain is that Secretary O’Mara has unilaterally raised the average cost of post-2013 vehicles sold in Delaware by at least $1,000, simply to comply with the department’s questionable findings. That’s according to an April 1, 2010 New York Times article. Industry experts say the regulations will add “about $3,000 to the up-front cost of the average car or truck,” notes PBS.
And to think all of this transpired without a whimper from Delaware’s elected officials, or mention in the papers. O’Mara claims the necessary notification and hearings took place. However, few Delawareans know nightmarish California air quality standards have been imposed on them, and fewer still understand the edict’s costs.
Indeed, California vehicle standards can hardly be justified even in the once-Golden State. They have their origin in its infamous smog, and Los Angeles was ground zero. But LA’s smog occurred because car exhausts were trapped in the San Fernando Valley. Catalytic converters, not the new California emission standards, dramatically reduced smog.
California’s draconian new standards were justified on global warming grounds; rammed through by an ecologically activist legislature, governor and Air Quality Control Board; and protected by the US Environmental Protection Agency, federal courts, and nation’s largest block of US senators and congressmen. But Delaware is not California. Its expensive edict may preen O’Mara’s green feathers, but they will be irrelevant to the US or global atmosphere.
So where were Delaware’s elected representatives and news media when this was happening? Aren’t our legislators supposed to represent us? Isn’t the media supposed to report vital news and inform citizens of significant events like this? With a $58,000 annual income for the average Delaware household, it should be news when an unelected bureaucrat from California decides to increase the new car purchase price by up to $3,000. If O’Mara’s diktat were a tax hike, an irate citizenry would have revolted.
Why was this information suppressed? Perhaps it’s because the centerpiece of Governor Markell’s agenda is “green energy,” and anything that makes electric vehicles more price-competitive must be supported, even if science and economics don’t justify the decision. With Fisker Automotive deciding to build electric cars in the state – with help, of course, from “Delaware’s own” Vice-President, Joe Biden, and promises of big-time subsidies from US taxpayers – the need to keep the citizenry uninformed is even more compelling.
Whether Fisker ever builds a single car in Delaware is debatable. But the Markell administration has just bet a large chunk of the State’s economy on this outcome. Increasing the price of gas-powered vehicles advances that objective.
But where are the facts to support this gamble? The November 2 elections, continued high unemployment, and a dozen states teetering on the brink of insolvency have changed public and congressional thinking about “green energy” subsidies.
As to insolvency, by far the worst example is O’Mara’s home state. California ranks 49th out of all states on how its tax system treats business, according to the Tax Foundation. Its costly and dictatorial environmental regulations are legendary. With established businesses fleeing and new entrepreneurs choosing to go elsewhere, California’s unemployment now stands at 12.4% – just behind Nevada. Its Legislative Analyst says the state faces a $20-billion-per-year deficit for the next six years.
And California is to be the role model for Delaware?
At the very least, a thorough economic study must be conducted to explore the effects of O’Mara’s edict and Markell’s tacit support. It should be accompanied by a careful analysis of the alleged environmental, health and climate change benefits of the new car rules. These studies will almost certainly confirm that the regulations will cost jobs and pound family budgets, for no health, environmental or economic gain.
In fact, virtually all climatologists now agree that even full compliance by all developed countries with the Kyoto protocols would keep average global temperatures from rising by an unmeasurable 0.05 degrees C (0.09 degrees F) by 2050. Secretary O’Mara’s pricey rule might reduce temperatures by 0.0001 degrees – assuming carbon dioxide really does play a key role in climate change.
Meanwhile, a real debate must occur in a public forum, instead of behind closed doors, where decisions are made by unelected regulators, go unreported by the media, and don’t even merit a question or expression of concern from legislators. The same goes for other states, our US Congress and actions by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Or perhaps I'm totally out of touch. Perhaps transparency is an antiquated notion, unsuited to governance by regulation. But if so, we might as well get rid of the Delaware and US Constitutions, since they no longer serve the purpose for which there were ratified.
After all, if elections no longer matter, why waste the time and effort? The populace can simply let the “most qualified” regulators tell them how to behave, what to eat, how to think, and what to drive – and accept a “benevolent totalitarianism.”
But then again, maybe people still believe rights come from God – and the government’s job is to protect unalienable rights from the dictates of unelected regulators. Indeed, according to a recent Rasmussen survey, most US voters say the primary purpose of government is to protect individual rights and freedoms.
But maybe those who hold those beliefs are now to be simply disenfranchised – by the benevolent dictatorial nanny class that always knows what’s best for us. The next few years will decide.
John Nichols is an investment advisor and ardent environmentalist who believes in individual freedom and responsibility, and closely follows Delaware politics and power grabs.