In “Getting Serious about Smog,” Virginia Postrel writes:
After many years of bureaucratic resistance, California is finally getting serious about air pollution from cars. These days, most cars don’t spew much pollution. But the few that do, account for a lot, and many of them still manage to pass state inspection. Now, the LAT reports, the state is rolling out a serious program to measure tailpipe emissions of cars actually on the road:
In the largest experiment of its kind in California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District plans to use remote sensors and video cameras to measure air pollution from 1 million vehicles as they enter freeways and navigate roads in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside.
If caught, the owners of the most environmentally offensive cars and trucks would receive letters informing them that the government would pay to fix or scrap their vehicles. The South Coast district estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 of the dirtiest vehicles would be detected. Smog regulators lack the authority to order drivers to dump dirty cars, but they can offer incentives…
So, if they can offer incentives, why don’t they? Why are they building a surveillance infrastructure that will monitor all cars, and be “repurposed to fight terrorism” within a few years? (If you think that’s a good idea, fine, we can discuss. But this will turn out to be a bait and switch.)
There’s a tendency amongst government agencies to tend towards the draconian solution, even when offering incentives might be cheaper, more efficient, and more freedom-loving. To catch 20,000 cars, they’re going to be monitoring 980,000 others. Why not take the money to do that monitoring, to do the roadside analysis, etc, and spend it to advertise that the state will buy your car for more than market rates?