Having talked about the concept of “smart growth” last week, it’s time for me to bring up something which was buried a little bit in my e-mail box, but works right in with the theme I was establishing then. Certainly the Green Workplace blog where I noticed this was pleased with this development.
At the tail end of August, the California Assembly passed SB375, which will help achieve the state’s air pollution goals by essentially dictating to local government that their future planning cut the number of vehicle miles traveled. This is how the bill analysis put one example of its topdown planning:
SB 375 requires CARB (the California Air Resources Board), after considering the recommendations from a broadly based advisory committee, to provide targets to the MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) for greenhouse gas emission reductions for cars and light duty truck trips from the regional land use and transportation system by July 1, 2010.
Basically, as Reason.org’s Samuel Staley opined:
The state government has decided Californians are going to drive less, whether they like it or not. Want to buy a Prius or insulate your home as your contribution to lowering carbon emissions? Sorry, but that’s not doing enough for the government’s tastes. California wants politicians and planners to have a bigger say in where you live, shop and work so that they can make sure you don’t drive that Prius too far.
Senate Bill 375 is the state’s latest far-reaching piece of legislation intended to help to meet one objective: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
To cut emissions, the government will take a more active role in where you live, how you get there, and what kind of home you live in. While this legislation thankfully stripped away specific regional targets that would have been far more draconian, the core governing values underlying California’s approach should sound alarms in and out of the state.
If you substitute a few acronyms you could easily picture the liberals in Annapolis adopting much the same thing. After all, Maryland and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative we and nine other suckers states participate in just had our first auction of CO2 allowances – if people thought bundling mortgage-backed securities was pushing the envelope of risky financial investment, try placing a value on breathing. I wonder how much of a CO2 allowance I have to buy if I run a couple blocks after forgetting to use my inhaler first.
But an artificial limitation on the number of vehicle miles traveled has more effects than just a possible drop in greenhouse gases. It also regulates behavior by forcing commuters to live closer to their workplace or depending on slow and taxpayer-subsidized mass transit to get to their job sites. We saw this over the summer with $4 a gallon gas, but in that case it was mostly a function of market forces and not so much government intervention. You may also recall that the clamor wasn’t nearly as much for more mass transit options as it was for reducing the pump price through increased oil exploration and drilling. (Have we forgotten the “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” movement already?)
Even the movement toward smaller cars which would be enhanced by increasing CAFE standards has deleterious effects on state tax revenue, because per-gallon gasoline taxes obviously don’t supply as much cash if automobiles are more fuel-efficient. That’s one reason some in Congress quietly endorsed a ten cent increase in the federal gasoline tax rate.
It’s another weapon in the anti-personal freedom, anti-property rights arsenal Annapolis Democrats seem to unload every session. Something like this could even supplant the Impervious Surface Fee Annapolis liberals and their allies have tried and failed to enact in recent sessions as legislation that falls into my “love to hate” department. (They did get a Green Fund in the 2007 Special Session with different funding sources.) While I hate to give them ideas, something tells me they’re much more up to speed on the concepts of restricting growth via state mandates than even I am.