Zycher has criticized the AQMD's program for requiring employers to provide incentives for their employees to car pool. He correctly points out that these marginal incentives will not work. People choose to drive or car pool for many reasons, but pollution of the atmosphere ranks low in their calculations. Air pollution is a social cost that is external to any particular driver who realizes that entering the freeway will not perceptibly worsen his personal environment.
It is unreasonable, however, to stigmatize the AQMD's efforts as "mindless social engineering by mindless bureaucrats." The AQMD is in a bind between unrealistic expectations and inadequate authority.
One action that might be effective would be to substantially raise the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, since the burning of these fuels directly causes a great deal of our air pollution. With relatively low taxes on gasoline, we are sending the signal to our drivers that clean air does not have a high social priority. It would be an act of political courage even to propose a tax. It is our elected officials, more than the AQMD, who deserve our derision for their lack of fortitude.
DAVID T. HULETT