Emissions Tests For Thee

North Carolina has decided that emissions tests ought to be reserved for older cars, either those more than three models years back or with more than 70,000 miles. This sounds logical, but makes me a tad uncomfortable regardless. Mostly because of who is going to be driving the old cars, and who can afford new ones. The tests may have been unnecessary, but there was at least an egalitarianism.

Of course, emissions standards are more generally going to fall on those that can’t afford the latest and greatest anyway. The same applies to safety standards. Even if the folks with new cars had been required to get their car tested, they’d have failed at much lower rates than those prayin’ to the heavens that Old Bessy makes it through another year. If anything, this change merely codifies that distinction, and further recognizes the reality of the situation.

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18 thoughts on “Emissions Tests For Thee

    • It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s a pain in the ass for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a street sweeper or Billy O’Nairre, you gotta go down to the DMV and prove that your car doesn’t spit out more than 15 PPB of stuff that is so bad that we only allow you to spit out 15 PPB of it.

      Now? Well, just the folks who drive cars older than X years old have to prove that. This will not impact the lives of them what purchase new cars when new car time rolls around… but it will mess with the street sweeper who is still driving his 1977 Datsun.

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              • My snark was that we should require everyone to wade through the red tape, whether there’s any benefit from having them do do or not. Making a guy who’s got a one year old car have an emissions test is as beneficial as having an employed guy apply for unemployment. Or so it seems to me.

                Personally, newer cars tend to be clean enough and old cars rare enough that I’d just drop the whole smog check thingy altogether. Damn few gains to be made from it anymore, especially since, out of sympathy for the disproportionately affected poor, there’s usually a maximum repairs cost limit that’s too low to actually accomplish anything.

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                • I’m a pretty green sort of guy, but this makes sense to me. When the regs were put in back in the day, I imagine it caught a lot of polluting vehicles. But now? Even the older cars have catalytic convertors, fuel injection, and computerized ignition.

                  I would be very interested in a study on the costs/benefits.

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                  • Rod,

                    I’m pretty green myself. I can’t speak to the precise cost/benefit outcome of eliminating emissions tests in, say, L.A., but it’s pretty facially evident it wouldn’t take us back to the ’70s there.

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                • I don’t see the equivalence. To me, the equivalent would be if we expected those without cars to spend time at the smog-check palace.

                  Anyhow, do you think that allowing wealthier individuals to bypass the emissions test makes an overall repeal more likely or less?

                  Incidentally, my state has an exorbitant registration fee on new and new-ish cars. I could actually approve of saying “You know what, since we don’t need to check their emissions, we’ll use the funds generated from higher registration fees to help subsidize the emissions check.” That would at least give them a skin in the game, so to speak, though I doubt you would approve. In any event, North Carolina appears to have flat-rate registration.

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                  • do you think that allowing wealthier individuals to bypass the emissions test makes an overall repeal more likely or less?

                    Heh, probably less. Of course the 1% just have their chauffeurs take the limo to the testing station. Or have the testing station brought to their limos.

                    my state has an exorbitant registration fee on new and new-ish cars. I could actually approve of saying “You know what, since we don’t need to check their emissions, we’ll use the funds generated from higher registration fees to help subsidize the emissions check.”

                    I really don’t see a good policy purpose in charging higher fees on new cars, so it’s something that bugs me. But if it’s going to happen, that would be a good use of the funds.

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      • I don’t see a social benefit to levelling down. Afflicting the comfortable in a way that doesn’t comfort the afflicted smacks of malice more than egalitarianism. Not that I’m suggesting you have malicious intent, just that I don’t see what other goals could be achieved.

        Perhaps as an alternative the mandated emissions tests could be subsidised so as to lessen their burden on poorer car owners?

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        • I understand where you’re coming from on the “malicious” thing and don’t take it personally. If anything, it’s more along the lines of Privilege Guilt. I drive a car that would be exempt under this law if I were in a jurisdiction that had emissions testing*. It feels… awkward, that I should be spared the inconvenience of the emissions test.

          I’ve had the thought “Let them pay a fee to waive the inconvenience and use that money to subsidize the older cars. The thing about the testing, from my perspective, is that it’s less about the money and more about the hassle. Even when I was young and poor, it was a close call because I worked a lot and time was valuable, too.

          * – One might ask if I feel guilt for avoiding it by not being in such a jurisdiction. Not really. Our lofty perch has nothing to do with wealth, but rather to do with the relatively clean air of being in the Great Wide Open. We don’t have to ask ourselves “Is it worth this for cleaner air?” because we don’t have to worry as much about car exhaust anyway. Having a single locale where emissions testing is required, but only for some cars, makes it easier for an elite/everyman divide where of course it’s worth it (and that has nothing to do with our cars being exempt)!

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  1. As a pragmatic, I love this. The people of NC get to keep a system that keeps their air cleaner, but the waste of having to test millions of cars that everyone know will pass is carved out. This seems the kind of amazingly simple kind of government reform we should be doing across the board.

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  2. Will,

    Sorry but this post appears to be the latest example the inane liberal obsession over anything that appears to smack of inequality. BTW, I checked and found out that GA exempts all 2010 and newer model year vehicles. OMG, the inequality is spreading! VA exempts vehicles older than 25 from emissions inspections, so I guess poor folks are spared. This post also assumes that your state conducts vehicle emission testing.

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