- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Dishonest and dangerous environmental shibboleths are beginning to have real-world consequences that will cost all of us increasingly larger sums of money. California's July 2 decision to classify the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by car and truck engines a "harmful pollutant" subject to strict regulation is merely the latest and perhaps most alarming example of the trend.

The legislation, passed by the California State Assembly on a 41-30 vote, orders the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to promulgate "maximum, feasible and cost-effective reductions" of carbon dioxide output by automobiles, beginning with 2009 vehicles. The pretext for this is, of course, global warming theory and specifically, the idea that CO2 output by motor vehicles is contributing to a dangerous and unnatural warming of the Earth. It's now up to Gov. Gray Davis to sign the measure into law or veto it.

Since the only way to reduce the volume of carbon dioxide produced by an internal combustion engine is by burning less fuel, the almost certain result of California's legislation, if Mr. Davis doesn't veto it, will be to force automakers to make fewer large vehicles with eight- and six-cylinder engines perhaps rendering them so uneconomical to produce that they'll disappear altogether. California is a bellwhether state as regards environmental legislation, so the consequences will almost certainly have nationwide effects.

Until global warming theory became trendy, the attention of air-quality regulators was properly focused on curbing the harmful byproducts of internal combustion, mostly unburned hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds (VOC). It is VOCs and so on that form to create lung-choking smog; CO2 and water vapor have nothing to do with the quality of the air humans breath. Besides, engineers have made car engines much more efficient, cutting harmful emissions of the typical new car by more than 95 percent since 1970, when the original Clean Air Act was passed.

But that good news does not sit well with those who cannot abide the ever-enduring automobile especially the growing popularity of SUVs. And so the idea that CO2 an inert gas that is also produced by breathing, as well as by natural processes is somehow dangerous was ginned-up. And even if one accepts the very dubious idea of human-caused global warming, the amount of CO2 produced by automobiles worldwide is something on the order of 2 percent of the total output from all sources. Thus, even if every internal combustion-powered vehicle on the Earth were turned off tomorrow, total annual CO2 production would be so minuscule it could not conceivably affect global warming (real or not).

Nonetheless, California's CO2 curbs will affect the economic well-being of millions of people in California and elsewhere. The ball is in Mr. Davis's court.

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