Commentary: Electric cars, the AQMD and other bad ideas

Do you know who, or what, is behind the AQMD? If you're from Southern California, you're likely aware that this bureaucratic acronym stands for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Sounds innocuous, right? It's anything but.

These are the un-elected cronies of various cities and counties in our piece of the once-Golden State. They are current or former members of the Assembly or Senate. They are highly placed political insiders. They are well-connected types who wrangled high-paying jobs just to mess with our puny, unimportant little lives.

There are 13 members of the Board of Governors of the AQMD, and together they decide whether or not the air is dirty, and if so, what's causing it, and then whether to go after the purported culprits with their full power and authority. They can tell us to stop whatever they think we're doing that they've decided is bad. And if we don't stop, they can fine us. Or imprison us.

In short, there's basically no upper limit to their power. And, once again, they are appointed!

State air-quality regulators just passed sweeping new auto emission standards that include a mandate to have 1.4 million electric and hybrid vehicles on California roads by 2025. That coincides with the EPA's new fuel mileage rules mandating a CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard of 56.5 mpg by the same target date. The AQMD Board unanimously approved the new rules that require that one in seven new cars sold in the state in 2025 be an electric or other zero-emission vehicle!

The plan formed by these ivory tower pinheads calls for a 75% reduction in smog-forming pollutants by 2025 and a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emission from today's standards. Easy for them to say. Hard for them to do. I might mention that today's standards for vehicle emissions are 1,000 times more stringent than those in effect in 1974.

According to Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the AQMD's Board of Governors, "Today's vote…represents a new chapter for clean cars in California and in the nation as a whole. Californians have always loved their cars. We buy a lot of them and drive them. Now we will have cleaner and more-efficient cars to love."

There's only one problem. The technology to develop such vehicles does not exist. And, according to automakers, including "Government" Motors, it's not likely to exist 12 short years from now Mary seems to think she can force it into existence by simply mandating it.

Mary's pronouncement ails to recognize another fact. Californians don't like little electric clown cars. The Chevy Volt, the brainchild of global-warming zealots, was originally projected to sell 10,000 cars in 2011 and 40,000 a year by next year. They sold less than 7,000 Volts last year. Half of those sold are still on dealers' lots. And half of the remainder was purchased by the federal or state governments. The White House has "bought" more than 400 alone.

In fact, Chevy dealers are refusing to take their Volt allotments, having learned the hard way they cannot sell them. And yes, they cost just under $40,000 each. They are actually based on the Chevy Cruze, a 37 mpg car, which costs a measly $18,000. Think of the Volt this way; you'd be buying a Chevy Cruze with a $25,000 battery.

The good news is you'd get a $7,500 tax rebate from the Feds. Put another way, your neighbors will have some of their hard-earned tax dollars forcibly extracted from them and redirected your way as a D.C. bribe for buying this car. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?

So you say, no biggie. I'll just go across the border into Nevada or Arizona to buy my new F-150 pickup or Suburban trucklet. Ummm, not so fast. Mary will be watching you. The AQMD will outlaw all non-complying vehicles after a "suitable" compliance period if enough Californians don't knuckle under following implementation of the new regs.

Not to worry. Mary says buyers of these new, but impossible-to-build, cars will save enough on gas to more than pay for the thousands extra they'll have to pay at the dealer. I'd like to know what they've been breathing in at the AQMD. It would take more than 20 years for an average driver to recoup the extra investment. And the batteries will shoot craps after 10 years or so and cost a fortune to replace. And they will pose a huge problem in terms of disposal. They're dirty to mine, dirty to make and dirty to dispose of. Not good.

The AQMD is a vibrant example of what happens when you elect liberals. And liberals, by my definition, are those who just want to be left alone to live your life. If that's Utopia, we're well on our way.

CHUCK CASSITY is a longtime Costa Mesa resident active in education, youth sports and other causes. He is a former Daily Pilot columnist.

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