Gov. Brown on CARB – to the Sun and back

* Californians drove almost 335 Billion miles last year
* historic agreement (now known as CARB) was between California’s Republican Governor Reagan and the United States Republican President, Richard Nixon
* Henry Ford II came out to California to complain about not being able to meet standard

Governor Brown was the keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). No matter what California has done, Californians continue to drive more miles and use more gasoline.

It’s not the good news you expect to come out of a 50th-anniversary celebration of a group that is doing everything they can to keep the emissions out of a tailpipe in the – cough, cough – Golden State.

Brown reminisced about the time Governor Reagan counseled Californians to drive ten percent less. That request did not happen. Last year Californians drove about 335 billion miles. That is the equivalent of 22 million passenger vehicles plus 10 million other vehicles driving. Think about it; the Sun is 93 million miles away.

Brown, cynically, congratulated Californians on increasing the amount of gasoline used, even though the per capita usage went down, “You obviously did not listen to me when I said we wanted to decrease our oil consumption by 50%. You just kept right on driving, didn’t you? You didn’t walk; you didn’t pick up your bicycle, you didn’t get your Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV).”

CARB’s focal point, in the beginning, was SMOG. The word SMOG was created by a Professor from CalTech, Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit. Brown noted that Republican Supervisor Warren Dorn’s running slogan was SOS – Stamp Out Smog, “it was a bi-partisan goal to get rid of smog by enacting the Clean Air Act, recognizing California’s unique role as a setter of auto emissions standards. That historic agreement between California’s Republican Governor Reagan and the United States Republican President, Richard Nixon, around the first earth day, there was a sense that this was a good thing and most the Republicans liked it. When I became Governor, we started seriously enforcing the laws. It’s one thing to talk about clean air, but it’s another thing for CARB to articulate a restrictive rule that says that only this much carbon monoxide and no more, this much sulfur emission coming out of the tailpipe, this much oxide of nitrogen. Then it becomes real.”

Brown spoke about the time around 1975 Henry Ford II came out to California and talked to Chairman Tom Quinn and complained that they couldn’t meet the emissions standard. CARB didn’t relent, and “those emission standards are a fraction of what they are today. The escalation in restrictions has come a long, long way in what could come out of the tailpipe. And now we (California) want nothing to come out of the tailpipe. We want Zero Emission Vehicles.”

Indeed the first time Brown ran for Governor he promised blue skies, “It might have been a little grandiose, but it’s the thing you say when you’re 36 years old and running for Governor of California.” Jokingly, Brown pointed out that there were blue skies today and told the audience that they could thank him for that.

Brown lamented that it gets pretty gnarly when you have to work with all the vehicles, the plants, the emissions, “Politics is the business of saying yes, of handing out money; you do favors. But CARB is not in the business of doing favors (except some of the subsidies that are being given out); it is in the business of saying no – no, you can’t do that, you have to spend more money on your machines. And that is not easy.”

Brown acknowledged that the Air Board Resources benefits from institutional memory; lawyers, scientists, engineers. People who work on regulation, it’s not something you learn overnight, “The Board has had a lot more power it is unique among the fifty states, and you have some of the same people.”

It’s no longer a series of pollutants – the human beings and their artifacts. Wind patterns, human habitation, Brown understands the paradox between the all-power of CARB and enforcing Oil companies, gas companies, car companies, and the chemical composition of the atmosphere, “we have a long way to go from generating 440 million greenhouse gases to zero.

This challenge, Brown said, is a multi-dimensional challenge that requires a comprehensive response with enforcement and collaboration. CARB doesn’t have all the jurisdiction. This has come a long way, no one envisioned this, certainly not Ronald Reagan when he signed the bill, certainly not President Nixon when he signed the clean air act giving California a special prerogative to make its own air regulations and emission restrictions.”

Brown doesn’t want to just get to zero emissions; he wants to go further and get to negative emissions. He doesn’t know how to get there but said that nothing is more important, that climate change is occurring, the temperature is rising, droughts are more frequent. He ended with, “We’re talking about real problems to stay on the course we’re on – it’s going to affect the economy and the well-being of California and the State of our governance. The fires and mudslides could become a regular thing. We have to take real steps. We have to spread this to other states and other countries. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“Where is humanity going?”

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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