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Another CARB Clunker

Thursday December 19th, 2013   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 7:17am PST   •  

Santa_200Santa may still be en route but the elves at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have already made their list and checked it twice. CARB bosses want to help low-income people by buying them cars. CARB now hands out $1,000-$1,500 for motorists to get rid of older vehicles. Under the new plan the minimum voucher would be $2,500, with no limit on the top end. So CARB could even spring for the full price of a new Nissan Leaf, an electric car that costs $21,000.

As the reasoning goes, the wealthy can use their own money to buy subsidized luxury sports cars like the Tesla. Therefore “transportation justice,” dictates that CARB must empower low-income people to buy cars such as the Nissan Leaf, not exactly a hot seller under normal conditions. Auto dealerships will doubtless love the plan, which amounts to another government subsidy. The federal cash-for-clunkers program had many negative consequences and so will this plan. The CARB elves, meanwhile, have been busy on other fronts.

Hien Tran was their project manager on diesel exhaust and CARB bosses touted Tran’s PhD in statistics from the University of California at Davis. Tran was the author of a study concluding that particulate matter from diesel exhaust causes 1,000 additional deaths each year. Epidemiologist James Enstrom of the UCLA School of Public Health found otherwise, and also noted that Tran had bought his PhD for $1,000 from a diploma mill in a Manhattan office of the United Parcel Service. CARB bosses knew about Tran’s fakery but said nothing and continued to employ him as a “pollution analyst” at nearly $90,000 a year. Worse, CARB used Tran’s study to deploy onerous diesel regulations that punish embattled California truckers, farmers and construction workers.

They could be forgiven for failing to see any justice in CARB’s new plan to pay for electric cars. CARB already indulges junk science so no problem to mix in bad economics. But whatever the fallout for the workers, they find it hard to junk an unelected body of regulatory zealots. Happy holidays everyone.

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December 2013