By on May 3, 2013

QOTD - Angering Greens With Excess Pollution - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe won’t get into the politics of emission-control laws here, except to observe that you’re either a Marx-quoting, global-warming-duped, vegan one-worlder who wants to crush personal initiative beneath tons of bureaucracy and force everyone to ride an electric bus to their groat rations at the communal kitchen… or you’re an Ayn-quoting, gun-fondling, toxic-waste-spreading wingnut who cackles with glee at the mental image of inner-city children shriveling like salt-soaked slugs beneath tons of lead, oxides of nitrogen, and unburned hydrocarbons. Now that you’ve all chosen sides, imagine that every official in every level of every government in the world waved their magic legislative pens and put the kibosh on all emissions-related regulations concerning motor vehicles. Would you go clean, dirty, or in-between with your next vehicle purchase?
QOTD-OptionalSmogGearIn such a world, most vehicle manufacturers would offer some sort of choice in the matter; simply tweaking engine-management software allows a vehicle to favor fuel-economy over emissions, power over emissions, or emissions over both. You’d be able to choose, say, the Dirty Bird Edition Challenger, which would have a giant wing, no catalytic converters, and oxides-of-nitrogen-enhancing 14:1 compression. Hey, if residents of Fontana don’t like smog, they can take advantage of our free-market system to find jobs in a place with clean air! If you want to impress others with your commitment to clean air, you could buy the Breath of Fresh Air Edition Prius, which would offer 16 wheel horsepower and a dashboard-mounted meter that registered individual carbon atoms coming from the tailpipe. Hey, if you can’t stand being stuck behind those holier-than-thou types, you have the freedom to get the hell out of San Francisco! What’s it gonna be?

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118 Comments on “Question: If New-Vehicle Emission Regulations Were Abolished, Would You Opt For the Smog-Delete Package?...”


  • avatar

    I’m a libertarian on almost all issues, but these anti-pollution regulations seem to have done a good job at making the air of our cities smell half decent. When I lived in Los Angeles, I remember a time when it was physically difficult to breathe the air in the San Fernando Valley. When I visited Manila in the Philippines, I remember people wearing masks to help filter the horrendous air pollution.

    So I have to say it seems like this is one of the few times (in my view) where regulation has actually done some good.

    So I’m curious, where did this question come from? I find it hard to believe that air pollution regulations are in any danger with this administration.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      Actually this is just about the perfect example of a situation where regulation can do a lot of good. We as a society benefit more from the cleaner air allowed by air pollution regulations than we are harmed by the burden of making our cars comply with them; but any given individual’s interest in driving a noncomplying car would likely outweigh the harm that individual would suffer from the marginal emissions from his own unregulated tailpipe. You can quibble about what regulations are necessary and which do more harm than good, but the idea as a whole is pretty unassailable.

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        As someone who grew up in the OC in the 70s, “GOD BLESS CARB”.

        California Air Resources Board may be no fun when it comes to dropping in some crate engine (although now you can get CARB compliant crate engines, GM sells the LS3 E-Rod engine, I’m waiting for GM to do the new C7 Vette LT1 as a crate engine for when my S2000 hits >200K miles), but the difference between 1975 and today is night and day.

        Emissions is a classic externality: The cost imposed by a polluting car is not born on the polluter, but on everyone else. There is no no-regulation solution for externalities.

        • 0 avatar

          “Emissions is a classic externality: The cost imposed by a polluting car is not born on the polluter, but on everyone else. There is no no-regulation solution for externalities.”

          This.

        • 0 avatar
          carinator

          CARB sucks and has nothing to do with the cleaner air. More efficient cars in general and CA importing energy is the cause of that.

          The smog check law is ridiculous waste of time and money (for newer cars). I bought a brand new Corvette and had it shipped to CA. It has the 50-state sticker and it still had to be smogged!

          And go ask someone trying to get CARB certification for an aftermarket part nearly identical to an OEM or CARB-approved part what a redundant boondoggle CARB is.

          http://forums.corvetteforum.com/c6-forced-induction-nitrous/3256098-a-major-announcement-from-a-and-a.html

          Mr. drop a 450HP small block gashog into a little Honda telling us about clean air, LOL! Maybe you should get a Chevy Volt and make the air even cleaner!

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Where it gets tricky is when it comes down to determining whether what is good for California is actually any good for places like Minnesota.

        The idea of the community coming to together to solve a common problem isn’t counterintuitive to Libertarian ideals at all. It’s when those solutions are impressed on other communities where the cost/benefit ratio may not work out to be as favorable that objections arise.

        • 0 avatar
          Nicholas Weaver

          Which is why there are actually two car pollution regimes for new vehicles in the US..

          There is the Federal standard, and then the California standard. A state can chose whether the vehicles sold have to meet the CA (50 state) standard or the more lenient EPA standard (so called 49 state vehicles). It just happens that enough states follow California’s lead that almost every manufacturer follows the CA standard now.

          And it is up to the states to handle how emissions are tested on existing vehicles. Some states require annual or biannual emissions testing, while others just don’t care if the once-compliant car becomes a polluting mess.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Right, that’s how it is at the moment. The fact that automakers have preferred to implement a single standard on themselves is a result of a need to reduce their design and manufacturing complexities.

            From an individual or community standpoint, the argument against the current regulation regime is whether 2 standards is satisfactory for 50 States, and whether any Federal control over what is a State/local issue is appropriate.

            Yes, the Federal Government granted itself this authority under the Clean Air Act, and yes the EPA allows States to determine how/if they perform active testing. Many proponents of States’ rights argue whether that authority is necessary or valid.

          • 0 avatar
            Astigmatism

            danio, the states’ rights argument gets tricky unless and until the states can set up force fields to keep emissions (and attendant environmental effects) from other states out of their states. Otherwise it’s just the externality problem on a much larger scale.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            @Ast Not really, unless you live in a place where there are twin cities in different states with different regulations. At that point it could be shown that one municipality is affecting the other. A resolution can be reached between the two municipalities etc.

            Ground level air pollution from vehicles is a local issue. If everyone in Los Angeles ran straight pipes tomorrow, no one in Las Vegas would have just cause to complain.

          • 0 avatar
            carinator

            That’s because CA is such a big market no car maker can afford to leave it out, so CA is imposing its nutty lefty nonsense on the whole country. EPA standards should pre-empt CA’s nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      As a fellow libertarian, I would like to point out that regulation is neither the only nor the most efficacious way to reduce pollution.

      Pollution is a negative externality. Pigouvian taxes are the appropriate “libertarian approved” way to combat negative externalities.

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        Pigouvian taxes ARE a form of regulation.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          Kindly disagree. CAFE, cats, and other emission regulating laws have hard limits on pollutants, regardless of what you’re willing to pay.

          Taxes allow you to pollute up to whatever economic price you’re ok paying.

          And CO2 is a pollutant, as defined by the EPA; this is why I included CAFE under the list of “regulations”.

      • 0 avatar
        drewtam

        I’ve thought for years that an emissions tax based system based on measured societal impact would be much better than an arbitrary fixed limit system. I had no idea that this concept was already formalized with an economic description and name. Thanks for teaching me something new today.

        BTW, some of the advantages of a tax based system is that the highest volume engines will get the most advanced tech to minimize emissions and fuel consumption. The niche markets would be free to minimize cost, and would go a long way to level the playing field between large corps and small start ups.

    • 0 avatar
      carinator

      Yeah, real libertarian you are.

      California has cleaner air because 1) cars in general are far more efficient and cleaner and 2) CA imports a lot of its energy, including from dirty, coal-burning states to run its Chevy Volts (In other words, CA exports its dirty air). CA emissions rules are ridiculous, and should be preempted by federal law.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        California doesn’t have cleaner air than other places it “exports its dirty air” to — it has cleaner air than it had 40 years ago. The topography of the state, particularly in the Los Angeles basin, causes particulate emissions to get “stuck” in a way they don’t elsewhere. Smog in (e.g.) Chicago tends to blow away and get dispersed; in LA it just stays put.

        California has different laws because it has different problems — and because it’s had laws for longer than anywhere else.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Would depend upon cost, and what the trade offs would be, if I was able to get 50 mpg and have 1000 hp in a suburban for example with $10,000 off the sticker, hell yea I’d opt out, but I don’t believe emission equipment holds cars back no where near that much (or rather I know they don’t).
    Basic emissions standards such as cats are plenty good, diesels on the other hand are hurting badly, a duramax that use to get 18-22 empty stock struggles now to get 14-15 stock.
    It would all depend on the particular situation to me, but most likely I wouldn’t opt out, however I would lose systems that I believe to be wasteful in a heartbeat(main concern being diesels). Cats I believe are to be perhaps the only system ever forcibly created by the govt to actually be worthwhile.
    I have a feeling some may have been expecting my comments here….

    • 0 avatar
      Remi

      I agree that the impact on diesel engines seems to be higher. I notice that my mileage takes a dive when the DPF gets regenerated – but the SCR doesn’t seem to be hurting anything other than the extra weight and complexity.

      The modern common rail direct injected diesels have unprecedented power and torque, and with the DPF, no soot whatsoever, which is really nice.

      Do you know why the Duramax is hurting so badly??? (I don’t think the Cummins are)

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        They can all make impressive power numbers (when not in an emission system related de-rate). The problem is fuel mileage and added cost, (initial price, and maintenance/operating).

      • 0 avatar
        racer193

        My brother has both a 05 dodge 2500 and a 11 dodge 2500, both with the cummins and both stock(05 has a sct tune). He uses both to pull a 35′ tripple axle flat deck trailer or a 38′ tripple axle camper. The 11 is an absolute slug to pull even an unloaded trailer with, it slows down on an uphill grade like a semi would(120km/h to say 80) and gets like 10 mpg towing and maybe 15mpg on a good day while not hooked to anything. The 05 on the other hand works. even when not tuned it does not get bogged down on the uphill. the more weight you put on it just hunkers down and do its job and gets 15 mpg while towing and 22 to 25 mpg when not towing. Cummins had to increase displacement from 5.9 to 6.7 liters to combat the emmisions equipment and its still not enough.
        In diesel applications the emmisions equipment hampers the trucks usefulness and adds extra complexity and cost to a relativly simple design So I would get rid of emission equipment on all comercially used light trucks. As far as cars and truck used for commuting I would keep emmision equipment and applaud its arvancement.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          SMH

          Funny how some can believe an impercieveable amount of exhaust being treated is worth getting only 2/3 the fuel mileage, It makes you wonder if officials just want to destroy the economy.
          Honestly what reason is there to buy a 05 over a 2013 diesel? Technology is easily added, and you don’t have no where near as much drawbacks. GM wanted AM general to put the 6 speed behind the H1, which would have costed AM General millions for a vehicle that is profitable as a low production vehicle. Also why AMG has to make the C-series a kit vehicle only, regulations would make it unprofitable.

  • avatar
    David Hester

    Interesting thought excercise. To be totally honest, it would depend on the financial cost. I would presume from the way the question is posed that the “dirty” car would be cheaper because it wouldn’t have the extra emissions equipment.

    If the cost was the same, then I would opt for a middle of the road emissions package.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I’d be happy with a car built to comply with 1984 emission regulations using modern technology. That was the level of emissions reduction that actually cleaned up the air, after all. Everything since then has just been the result of bureaucratic leeches needing to justify their place at the teat, adding cost while making negligible difference to anything other than America’s bottom line. This would give me back a throttle cable and eliminate nasty underhood sources of heat that hurt performance and durability.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Good point, I can agree with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Back when I was in high school (a ways back but a little after ’84), it was said that less than 10% of the cars made over 50% of the pollution. I bet over 90% of those 10% are off the road now. It really seems as if we are going after diminishing returns pursuing reduced auto emissions when a weed-whacker pollutes more than a Suburban.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Actually, new weed-wackers as well as most lawn care equipment have anti-pollutuion equipment on them now. Check out a new Hitachi weed wacker you’ll see what I mean.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        That’s the crux of enhanced regulation. The law of diminishing returns should place a natural limit on the extent of emissions reduction, but for some people, that last 2% must be achieved and hang the cost. You can tell them by their “if it saves one life” rhetoric. The EPA doesn’t “do” cost-benefit analysis.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          “It’s for the CHILDREN”

          I’m in agreement, though I would move it up to the ’90s. I’m OK with DBW throttles, hard to have stability and traction control without them. They could just be programmed to be more natural.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      You know that there are almost 100,000,000 more people in America now than there were in 1984, right? That in 1984, Americans drove about 17,000,000 miles and last year they drove almost 30,000,000 miles.

      1984 emissions regulations wouldn’t “clean up the air” today.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Considering the standards that actually contributed to ground level air quality really didn’t change much between 1984 and now, I’d say CJ has a fairly valid point. The Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 but the updates were mostly to target things like ozone depletion.

        Now CO2 has been added to the list as a “pollutant” but that particular compound doesn’t really affect air quality in any measurable way.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      I’d go with year 2000 era emissions regulations. Even cleaner than your 1984 regulations and before diesels got hobbled by regulations requiring urea injection, etc.

      My car has a stick shift and an electronic throttle. It doesn’t drive notably differently than any car I’ve owned or driven with a cable throttle.

  • avatar
    toomanycrayons

    Given that every life (and every planet) ends badly, what difference does it make? Do you want your kid’s heart in your chest to save your pitiful, consumer self, or are you still nursing that dynasty thing and hoping they’ll visit you when you’re fighting for a second diaper/week in…False Dichotomy Manor?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’d keep OBD, but ditch the cats, particulate filters, selective catalyst reduction systems and EGR.

    I finely tuned engine will take care of excessive HC and CO. Our geography around here isn’t condisive to smog, so I can NOx can live with NOx. A healthy engine is a NOx machine.

    • 0 avatar
      Remi

      All diesels will produce particulate, even well tuned ones – and NOx do cause smog…so I am not sure where you’re going with that…

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Geographically, smog isn’t an issue here, neither is diesel particulate matter. So the elimination of equipment that controls those things wouldn’t make much difference to the air quality around these parts. That’s where I went with that.

        • 0 avatar
          probert

          Your comments all seem to imply that the air in your region never moves anywhere – it just stays in one place forever. Fascinating.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            No, I’m implying the exact opposite. That the winds and inversions do sufficiently move the air so smog doesn’t form and other criteria matter is dispersed well below any hazard levels as defined by any regulatory body.

            The problem with places like LA and Salt Lake City is that their geography doesn’t allow enough air movement to disperse their pollutants.

  • avatar
    fiid

    Most emissions standards ignore carbon dioxide output and are based on percentage of output rather than absolute output. So – I’d be interested in relaxing some standards on cars with very small engines that are more efficient in order to make them more attractive to consumers. The absolute output of HC, NOx, etc, should not change, but the fleet fuel efficiency and CO2 output would be lower. Then we could have some of the small engined super-fun euro-boxes over here.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Hey! I’m not vegan!

    To answer the question: if we did away with emission regulations, I’d buy whatever I could get equipped with an airlock and filter system. My old E-class had a fantastic charcoal filtration system for outside air that you could turn on and off; turn it off after driving with it on for an hour and it was like walking out of a microchip factory clean room into a, um, much more smelly place. I’d want that on steroids.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The fumes from running without a ‘cat’ would drive you insane. We’re so used to the sanitary driving experience we have today that you would to install basic cats in a hurry. The same goes for diesels particulate filters.

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Whiteman

      This.

      My 1975 MGB has no cat. Never had one (Leyland only started installing them in ’76). I retrofitted ’73 SU carbs and it runs the standard “slightly rich” that the SU setup prefers. It smells terrible. I love the car, hate the exhaust. People in cars behind me hate it more.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        I’m considering a kit that converts my TR6′s Zenith Stromberg carbs to throttle body injection – then adding an aftermarket catalytic converter. As it stands, people behind me must feel a bit … fumigated.
        Years ago I had a 1st gen RX7. First thing I did was yank the air pump, chucked the rats nest of emissions hoses and replaced the stock exhaust and catalytic converter with a Racing Beat unit. After rejetting the carb it came alive, night and day difference. In retrospect I created a pollution factory. At minimum today I’d put a modern free-flowing catalyst on it though I’d still have to slip the inspection guy a fifty to ignore the revised emissions control gear.
        Anyway, I understand your empathy for those behind you.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        Interesting. My 75 Midget had one. along with EGR, and a smog pump. California car, though.

  • avatar
    autojim

    When tuned (jetting, accelerator pump nozzle size, ignition timing) for good drivability on regular unleaded pump gas, my ’65 Mustang would pass a sniffer test for 1985 model year new cars. The only “emission” control on the car, if you can call it that, is a PCV system in place of a road draft tube. Granted, it lacks the evaporative emissions equipment newer cars have, and probably emits more hydrocarbon emissions while parked than newer cars so equipped do wile running.

    According to the rules of the SCCA Solo category I’ve prepped it for, I could pull the cats off my ’99 Cobra and disable other emissions systems. I’ve chosen not to — so far, the powertrain is stock — but when I do open up the exhaust, I’m leaving cats on it. Why? To prove a point: you can make great power without becoming a gross polluter. If you tune for efficient combustion, the exhaust is going to be cleaner. Look at the power levels available today compared to the musclecar heyday of the late ’60s (and accounting for gross vs net, and “insurance adjusted” advertised horsepower ratings): today’s cleaner, more efficient engines in today’s musclecars make more power overall, more power per unit displacement, and generally burn less fuel doing so.

    And then there’s my truck. ’99 F350 with the 7.3L. No emissions controls on that truck. The very mild tune I run increases NOx emissions under low-load conditions because it leans out the air:fuel ratio — producing lower fuel consumption. It does not “roll coal” under load — maybe a slight haze. I’m with Gale Banks on this one: smoke (like in the lead pic for this article) is stupid. It’s just wasted fuel. The folks who jack up fuel pressure, boost pressure, and throw a bunch of fuel at their engines are indeed going to make more power, and some of the extra overage of fuel may decrease EGTs a little, but then they keep throwing more and more at it, and all they get is smoke. A smarter approach is to address both fuel and timing (yes, diesels are timed. Instead of spark, it’s fuel squirt) to optimize power delivery without over-fueling.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      It’s been 3 decades since one of the hot rodding magazines ran the “new catalysts make more power than open headers!” article, and I’ve been an adherent to keeping it clean ever since. You’ve pointed out all the reasons it’s best to keep the tailpipe emissions clean; keeping all the power your fuel is capable of inside the engine itself.

      And you reminded me of why I point and laugh at ABG’s writers; one of them had the foolishness to state the lack of importance of airflow for modern turbodiesel engines during an early Duramax article.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      But its COOL! Like huge chrome wheels on a caprice

  • avatar

    Whatever gets me the best possible performance (in terms of power and driveability).

    Which generally means “in a bizarro parallel universe to EPA or EURO regulations”.

    Us crafty bikers have been bypassing EPA regs for decades. They’ve been the bane of our existence since they were imposed in the 1980s. They result in poor throttle response and choppy transitions. That’s not so noticeable in a 4000 lb car. In a 400-500lb bike the fueling can be astonishingly bad. Some bikes are considered practically unrideable without an ECU reflash (or carb tuning and a jet kit, depending on the era). It’s part of the basic setup of a machine – buy a free-flow exhaust, de-restrict the intake, and adjust the fuel metering. There are some bikes so strangled from the factory that you can uncork 15 horsepower at the wheel with just baseline tuning.

    Of course it’s all “for closed course use only”. No sir, we wouldn’t use our properly tuned and jetted machines on the street. That would be illegal.

    OW! I just rolled my eyes so hard I think I detached a retina.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      My 2009 TMax came with a catalyst built in to the heavy factory 1 piece exhaust.

      Not stainless, its that generic black brittle steel that tends to crack at joints, and be more expensive than a decent aftermarket one to replace.

      So i decided to be pre-emptive, and put a Yoshimura on. Its lighter,a bit louder and definitely smells more. And if the slip-on canister blows out, its easy to replace.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    I personally would go with the clean version. But I’m guessing unless the clean/dirty cars were exactly the same price a big chunk of shoppers would op for the cheaper dirty version since pollution is an externalized cost.

    Of course, given the recently publicized survey which seems to indicate that conservatives shy away from purchasing anything labeled “green” it’s possible fully 50% of the country would pay extra just to pollute more.

    • 0 avatar
      raded

      “Of course, given the recently publicized survey which seems to indicate that conservatives shy away from purchasing anything labeled “green” it’s possible fully 50% of the country would pay extra just to pollute more.”
      This is true. Apparently it applies to smartphones as well – my fiance’s more conservative co-workers are all passionately anti-iPhone.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        Some people dont want to have to dick around with ITunes just to load some music.

        All my music is MP3 and with Android, its a simple drag-n-drop.

        No DRM, no FLAC, i can drag it from my phone to any other computer, stream it, throw it on a thumbdrive, burn it, whatever.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Is it 16 hp per wheel? That’s like yesterday’s Civic wagon.
    I was born in ’63 and remember I liked smelling diesel smoke, but gas fumes gave me a headache instantly. Last week when my mechanically lazy neighbor brought out his ’95 Marquis, I figured Old Louisville would have fewer mosquitos this summer. Just pale grey noxious fog, hanging there for several minutes.
    Forty years ago it was like that for a huge number of driven cars. These days that is a rarity and I figured he could get pulled over and ticketed. With more cars out there, and more drivers having less maintenance knowledge and less money for service, it would be nasty fast. I’m opting for clean.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Easy answer: hell no. Emission controls are what made manufacturers pay attention to the details of the combustion events, with the resulting improvements in power, fuel economy, and engine durability we have today. The complaints people have about those controls come from penny-pinching garbage parts and half-assed engineering from certain companies which likely acted that way out of spite.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Provocative question, insufficient information to call it. CJinSD’s suggestion of a rollback makes sense to me. At this point, is there any advantage to de-developing to 1980′s pollution control levels? Would the cars be cheaper? Would they be more powerful and/or more fuel-efficient? Would CARB as the second arbiter of pollution levels allow it? If not, would the manufacturers bother with the parallel development?

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    I’d say the auto air pollution problem has been solved, but like all regulators, they need to find something new to regulate. Now it’s CO2–an emission impossible to eliminate as long as you’re burning hydrocarbons. You can’t convince me CO2 is any more of a pollutant than water vapor, for example. It’s been classified as such by appeals to junk science for the sole purpose of giving governments the power to regulate us all back to riding bicycles if they see fit.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      “air pollution problem has been solved” ? ? ?
      Denver and L.A (and I am sure many other cites as well) on certain days come to mind as counter arguments.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      Its kind of the governments version of the union “job bank”. id LOVE to get one of those sweet sweet govt jobs. When the “goal” is reached, make it more stringent!

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @E46M3_333: +1. Automotive air pollution has reached asymtotically low levels, and further regulation of it will only cost geometrically more money.

      CO2 is not a pollutant – trees and volcanoes produce quite a bit of it.

      • 0 avatar

        Water is a natural substance, we typically do not think of it as a pollutant. Yet if a human consumes too much of it, or intakes it in the wrong fashion, a human will die.

        Trees take in CO2 and release O2. When a tree (or any organic matter) burns it releases stored carbon as CO2. CO2 is a natural part of our atmosphere; like water, though, increasing its concentration can have adverse effects.

        So the questions to ask are:
        1. Is atmospheric CO2 increasing?
        2. Why is atmospheric CO2 increasing?
        3. What effects does an increasing level of atmospheric CO2 have?

        #1 is pretty straightforward.
        Atmospheric CO2 has varied from ~100 to ~200 ppm over the last 400k years. Since 1960 it’s increased from 315 ppm to 385 ppm.
        http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/program_history/keeling_curve_lessons.html

        #2 and #3 are more involved, and heavily politicized.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      +1. No different than most any other government agency. They just metastasize and eventually choke off economic activity, even if their original function was benign.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    I am surprised by the many pro emission control comments.
    And proud. I close my window whenever I see an old car go by;
    I just can’t take it. I cannot imagine how I tolerated the cars of the fifties and sixties.

    Sure the cars cost more. But having made six visits to Denver’s
    National Jewish hospital last year and seeing all of the breathing
    impaired people in the huge waiting areas, I would say we have been on the right track. Of course most of those people were in for smoking
    related illnesses.

    But as somone else indicated, certain levels attained in the past are good enough. And I do not like to see manufacturers jack up costs
    only to line their pockets while claiming that the cost were emissions
    related.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having spent a summer working in Los Angeles in 1969, I have no desire to return to that state of affairs.

    In fact, even at my “senior citizen” age, I can now smell the exhaust of the occasional “classic” car that I see running on the street, even when it appears to be in a good state of tune and the driver is just toodling along. (Just saw/smelled a Chevy Nova SS this weekend in Virginia).

    That said, we are well past the point of diminishing returns when it comes to emission regulation, especially when the big polluters are now yard equipment. If you look for it, Motor Trend or somebody did a test of a small, new gasoline powered car, a big new gasoline powered pickup truck and a new 2-cycle gasoline leaf blower and a 4-cycle gasoline lawn mower at an emission lab. They all ran the EPA test cycle (or, in the case of the lawn mower and leaf blower, the best facsimile they could devise). The lawn mower emitted more pollutants during the test than either the car or the truck would in its lifetime; and, of course, the leaf blower was even worse. The big truck was the cleanest. It’s exhaust was actually cleaner than the ambient air. That’s regulatory overkill. While I’m not in favor of electric cars, because they just relocate the pollution; I do favor electric lawn equipment, because even my “coal powered” electric lawn mower is significantly cleaner than my neighbor’s gasoline-powered machine.

    Diesels are another matter entirely. The particulates in diesel exhaust (which exist whether it’s making visible smoke or not) are known carcinogens. I don’t see why I should have to breathe that crap when there are alternatives, and I don’t car if it makes your engine less efficient or not.

    While the hypothetical doesn’t quantify the benefits from skipping the emission controls (either in terms of increased power or efficiency), it’s hard for me to imagine a benefit big enough to cause me to skip the controls. Having driven carburetted engines for 15 year, I’m not at all nostalgic for their operating characteristics, even in engines that were not emission controlled. My father’s 1963 Chevrolet 6 bucked when it was cold and getting any of them started when the car was too cold or too hot required an arcane skill in which no one should take pride. So, I don’t forsee any significant purchase price savings by purchasing a non-emissions controlled engine today.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “So, I don’t forsee any significant purchase price savings by purchasing a non-emissions controlled engine today.”

      Removing some emissions control systems while keeping others certainly would reduce vehicle cost significantly, especially in the case of modern diesels. Reduced cost in initial purchase and legacy costs.

      Items like Diesel Oxidation Catylists, Particulate filters, and Selective Catalyst Reduction systems cost thousands of dollars each to replace and the design and manufacture of these has added thousands to the initial price of the vehicle.

      Now you did suggest that there would be nearly no cost so high as to justify eliminating these components, so those points are probably moot. But they most certainly do add significant cost to a vehicle which is passed on to the consumer.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Stay clean on emissions regs but eliminate CAFE. I’d love to see what cars the market would go for with no government interference. Would we see V8 powered Sonic special editions or would consumers continue to go “OOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhh 40mpgs!”

    I mean for crying out loud you can get 400-500-600 hp cars now from the factory with existing regs, why eliminate tailpipe emission standards?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I can remember driving in Denver traffic in the late 60′s, and being able to smell the unburned hydrocarbons in my clothes and hair after getting out of the car and into a building.
    I can also remember the contempt and unfounded rumors for “smog controls” on cars, as well as the major US carmaker’s whining, resistance to, and blustering about how it was “impossible” to meet these regulations, even as the Japanese and Germans gladly, and innovatively met the standards.
    I also remember people removing said controls and feeling they had bettered themselves for it.
    I remember people even being pissed off about simple positive crankcase ventilation requirement
    To my mind, much of the wonder and goodness of modern powertrain design and engineering has a lot to do with being low CO & HC emission designs.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    As an owner of pre-smog and post-smog vehicles, I can confidently say I’d take the emissions-friendly one. I’d be perfectly happy with late 20th century tech though. Give me a cat, OBD2, and electronic fuel injection, and I’d be happy – As long as it’s not a 75 miles of vacuum tubes 120 horse V8. I want it to all work efficiently and reliably, but be simple enough that I can do work on it myself.

    Also, I don’t need more than 4-ish airbags. Anything made in 1999 is safe enough for me. A little lower weight combined with decent power is all this guy asks for in a DD.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    The more efficient an engine is, the cleaner it burns, there is more power, the motor lasts longer and the consumption is less.
    I like an efficient motor… So, I will have both options, have my cake and eat it, if you will, thank you :-)

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Man, I hate to quote rappers here, but -

    Fuck yes! You’d catch me ridin’ dirty.

  • avatar
    lon888

    My first car was a ’73 Datsun 240Z, it had smog gear from hell on it. After a few months of ownership it all went bye-bye. I shudder to think what kind of emissions it put out. Would I opt-out of a smog controlled car now? NO! I have 7 grandkids, and just about everyone of them has sort of repiratory issue and I don’t want them to loose their health at an early age.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Cat’s are what is currently killing fuel economy, as the ECM has to constantly swing from rich to lean while in closed loop in order to have a good life span. If not for that the ECM could run a much leaner mixture.

    That being said, modern fuel injection is the way to go for fuel economy, reliability, and emissions. As much as I love carbs, they don’t hold a candle to EFI.

    Now diesels are whole different matter, current emissions give horrible fuel economy, kill reliability, and have a huge cost to everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Truth. As wideband O2 sensors become more commonplace, the need for catalytic converters will decrease for HC and CO reduction. Unfortunately we may need to keep them for NOx, which the controlling of through lower combustion temperatures also kills economy.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I may be wrong, I am not in depth versed on this, but here goes.
      The Oxygen sensor in the exhaust is used to tell the computer to meter the fuel and air in precise stoichiometric ratio so that there is not an over supply of fuel or air. That oversupply is what gives rise to pollutants. The downstream catalyst finishes the reaction to produce water and CO2. The only at a Catalytic converter would “kill fuel economy” is by being overly restrictive. Plenty of powerful high revving contemporary proof that cats are not overly restrictive.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The problem is tradtional narrow band o2 sensors don’t precisely tell the computer what the Air Fuel Ratio is. All they can tell the computer is whether the exhaust stream is rich or lean. So the engine management is constantly adjusting back and forth, or what is known as “switching”.

        Now, the tunes tend to gravitate towards richer than necessary to 1. reduce combustion temperature to control NOx and 2. Not overheat the catalytic converter which can be sensitive to EGT overtemps.

        Engine metallurgy is good enough to support much leaner combustion conditions, but unfortunately NOx emissions regulations and catalytic converter technology won’t allow it.

        The restriction of a catalytic converter in and of itself will not reduce fuel economy. If anything a restriction in airflow would increase fuel economy in proportion with the reduction of power output.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      As engines become more efficient makers raise the horsepower – that’s the main detriment to fuel economy. But efficiency is far greater than it ever has been.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I would want my car’s emissions to be as low as possible – up to the point where they result in hanging revs that make smooth shifting more difficult.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I was in a city of 10 mil (Seoul) and smelled not a fume. All the buses where CNG and the cars are modern. The locals said converting buses from diesel to CNG made a huge difference. LA Basin in the 70′s…gag. Moden engine tech is outstanding. Shade tree mechanics no more. No points, condensers, plugs, carbs, to fiddle with..what a relief. In retrospect…very few actually “repaired” their autos. And those that did farmed out machine work ’cause no one had a shop full of boring machines, surfacers, etc., I mean..who rebuilt a starter armature? An automatic transmission? Reground a crank? Most repairs were subsystem swaps (generators, starters, master cylinders) with core charges. Good old days my ass, banged knuckles and long hair caught in a creeper.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    If I could, I’d order a ULEV car.

    With modern engine management, that would allow me to have an 8000 RPM redline, lean burn for cruise, and an extremely light flywheel with no run-on or rev-hang.

    Any dirtier and you’re talking about going back to inadequate computing power to run an engine and provide easy diagnostics.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      The equipment I’m talking about:

      1) crank and cam position sensors
      2) throttle position sensor – DBW if it helps make the 6000-8000 cam more driveable
      3) wideband oxygen sensor
      4) 4 “showerhead” and 4 in-cylinder injectors
      5) modern ECU
      6) 2013-grade engine calibration (OEM/BrenTune level) on both engine and chassis dynos.

      ULEV without a cat, 40 mpg on the highway in a 2500 lb car with a 220 hp 140 CID four-banger.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    If you had asked me this question in the mid ’70s through late ’80s when emissions controls were indeed strangling the power and driveability out of engines, I think my answer would unequivocally be to ditch the emissions control equipment. (I would keep the PCV and the evaporative emissions control system because why not? – but I’d certainly be ditching smog pumps, EGR, and emissions-jetted carburetors.)

    However if we are talking about the state of the internal combustion engine today and the state of today’s emissions tech, I’d keep it clean. The state of technology today is such that you can have a very clean-running engine that’s very powerful and still very fuel efficient with no perceptible driveability hit and without a lot of extra hardware and rats’ nests of vacuum hoses like those cars from the ’70s.

    I think it may be fair to say though that the emissions regulations that came into effect in the ’70s have been a big factor in getting the technology in the industry to where it is today. Without government regulation forcing them to change, Detroit would probably have been perfectly happy to keep cranking out the same old thing and keep those revenues as profit rather than sending them off to R&D. I would contend that ever-stricter emissions regulations are what eventually forced everyone to start using electronic fuel injection. EFI becoming mainstream was the big leap that put us on the road to where we are now.

    Perhaps the industry would have eventually gotten around to that on its own, but who knows how much longer it would have taken? I wonder if we’d be in the automotive technological golden age that we are now if not for the regulations.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I would rather have safety delete than smog delete.

    All these airbags and crash reinforcements and stuff add tons of weight to cars and force them to be samey.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      All of the safety equipment added since 1996 is due to consumer demand for safer cars.

      The crash safety standards cars have to meet to be sold in the US are the same as in 1996; that means acceptable results in a 30 MPH fixed-barrier impact, a side-impact door test, lap and shoulder belts for all outward-facing occupants, and two front airbags.

      The other safety changes mandated are TPMS (a 2-lb box of electronics plus an ounce or so per tire) and stability control (no additional hardware beyond that needed for four-channel ABS)

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        So the side curtain airbags and crash bracing aren’t actually required?

        I just want a compact car that weighs less than 3000 pounds and a Taurus that isn’t comparable in size to a Panther car (I honestly saw the two parked side by side this week), is that too much to ask?

        Probably.

        • 0 avatar
          chaparral

          Yep. They’re there to boost IIHS and EuroNCAP scores.

          A 1994 Miata or 1995 Civic would be legal if they had an ABS/ESC system to install.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            It makes me sad knowing that cars are bigger and heavier entirely because marketing convinced people to want their cars bigger and heavier.

            Not saying that we need to go back to 1800 pound Hondas that would probably crumple like tinfoil in an accident, but…man, the pounds you could shed!

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        You’re missing one significant exception — roof crush standards. Those were increased pretty dramatically in 2009 — allowing less deflection with double the applied weight, in a more strenuous test.

        Though the regs only apply to cars manufactured in 2012 and later, they’ve been accounted for for quite some time. My understanding is that these regs were the straw that ultimately broke the Panther platform’s back…so to speak.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          The question is, does meeting those standards add hundreds of pounds of weight to the car?

          That’s what’s important to me. I don’t want an oversized, heavy, and poorly handling modern car. If I wanted something that was bigger than it really needed to be, weighed more than a car it size should, and handled awfully, I would buy a Buick Electra 225.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Yes nogoyo, agreed. Between roof crush/rollover and European pedestrian safety standards, the regulators just keep on going, like safety zombies. I don’t think consumers were clamoring for those.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    The current issue of Diesel Power magazine has a well-thought out editorial regarding this issue.

    The editor’s opinion, as well as mine, is that the EPA started off as a much needed remedy to an obvious problem.

    As time has gone on, the agency has become its own autocracy.

    Instead of ENFORCING legislature created by Congress, it has created its own rules and regulations with little/no congressional oversight or approval.

    There are no challenges to its decisions regarding CAFE standards or emissions, except when groups such as SEMA SAN brings it up in court.

    None of its staff are elected officials. No one can be voted out.

    Regulations of the EPA has been a substantial contributing factor in the rising costs of a new vehicle. In the end, the cost is always passed on to us, the consumer.

    Has the EPA helped our environment? I belive that it has, but like most of our government, it has become too big with too much control.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Amen Imperial. This is how you create a monster. I think this is why some people preferred pollution taxation rather than the creation of a regulatory agency. Who knows whether it would have worked, but it is an idea worth considering. It attacks the problem without the creation of a new regulatory monster which solves the problem it was created to solve and then just runs wild forever after that.

  • avatar
    Onus

    I’ll keep emissions.

    I guess most people who are trying to argue them have never been somewhere else with tons of vehicles with emissions. You just walk outside and cough it a life i don’t want. I like opening the windows to get some nice fresh air.

    My comparison sake is Russia with 15+ year old ladas and newer ones all of which have no catalysts, still use carburetors, and have the most putrid exhaust ever.

    Russia is slowly increasing emissions standards thankfully.

  • avatar
    racebeer

    Holy Crap … that Honda CVCC vacuum hose diagram picture reminded me of the hell that was those late 70s fiascos. I know it kept them from having to run a cat converter, but when something went wrong, it was not fun to find the system leak!!!

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Can I get a happy middle ground that gives me cats, EGR, etc but lets me have a physical connection to the throttle and no tank of urine under the hood?

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    On a gas car? Give me 90′s era emission controls.
    On a diesel? I want the hi-po version.

    I have a 2003 Ram with the Cummins. This is the sweetest model year, as it was the introduction of the common rail, but without the cat and all the other crap that later on turns into a disaster. Modern diesels with proper tuning are quite clean. It stinks sometimes, but it’s quite benign for daily use.

  • avatar
    carinator

    The main problem is this nonsense of including CO2 as a pollutant.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    Absolutely I would. Gasoline engines are so clean now, a lot of that hippy garbage is unnecessary.

  • avatar
    old fart

    The performance of today is great but the emission police need to go, let the drivers decide if they want to repair the controls for better performance and economy. Or modify the 25 year exempt rule to ten years. I would rather see a BASIC safety check than more emission checks.

  • avatar
    Dan

    It’s easy to talk about birds falling out of the sky and rivers catching on fire and so forth. I don’t seem to remember those things happening with any regularity, or ever, under the standards of 20 years ago.

    Leave well enough alone. 1990 was quite well enough for me.

    • 0 avatar
      raded

      Not every car on the road is a new car, so emissions standards tend to take 5-10 years to have a noticeable impact. But I agree, I’d say the 1990s emissions standards are where we started to run into significantly diminishing returns. Now we use goat pee. Awesome.

  • avatar
    raded

    Most emissions standards, especially 70s/80s/90s eras, did a ton of good and absolutely should stick around. Iirc smog levels peaked around 1990 (considering all the cars from the 70s and 80s still on the road) and have dropped every year since. I don’t think we really need to expand emissions standards from where they are now though.

    Pedestrian safety standards on the other hand…how about you give me a car with solid, hydraulic steering and I’ll avoid the pedestrian?

  • avatar
    lowmanjoe

    This is not a hypothetical question regarding my 2009 370Z….it’s a matter of should I spend the money to throw on my test pipes permanently and get it tuned or spend the money on wooing women?

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=173-422A-060

  • avatar
    gslippy

    High fuel economy and low emissions are not necessarily the same. The 50 mpg Civics of the 1980s were gross polluters and weaklings compared to today’s cars, not to mention noisier and less safe.

    Going back to ‘dirty’ wouldn’t necessarily yield a better-performing car.

    I’d freeze emissions standards where they are now. The CARB has already tried legislating so many zero-emission car sales in CA in the past, and failed since the sales never materialized. The problem is that we’re running into barriers of basic science with the internal combustion engine and with EV batteries. Further pollution reductions will cost geometrically more to accomplish, with little benefit to anyone.

    Actually, I’d like to see sensible uniform pollution standards across the country. Here in PA, emission testing varies by county – ridiculous. But ‘sensible’ and ‘regulations’ rarely coincide.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I don’t see what’s ridiculous about emission testing varying like that.

      With air pollutants the danger is in the concentration, naturally in a dense urban area with weak wind patterns air quality would be a big concern, out in rural areas with strong wind patterns where everything is dispersed and diffused and diluted to next to nothing it’s not so much.. but the added headache of all the extra emissions crap that needs to be maintained by people who tend to have fewer resources than those in the big cities Is a big deal.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the 80′s my dad had a 76 Cadillac Eldorado that he bought from a relative who was upgrading. The single large catalytic converter was starting to get plugged up. We ordered from J.C. Whitney the filler pipe or as they called it “catalytic converter test pipe’ or as they referred to it in the catalog and on the box “catalytic converter test pipe-for test only” We put it on and the car ran somewhat better than having a half-plugged converter but there was not much of a difference in performance from the 500 ci 190 hp motor. Just compare how much HP todays vehicles produce with far fewer emissions.

    Being a New Yorker the air quality improvement has been immense many due to improved vehicle emissions regs. It’s our buildings and fixed source emissions, power plants etc. that cause more pollution than vehicles as well as having a decent mass transit system which induces people to leave the car at home.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Back in the 1970′s I would have said “hell yes” because the emission control devices of the time choked off performance and hurt fuel economy. Technology has largely solved that problem. My impression is that in most new cars we wouldn’t really gain that much power or MPG, especially not much MPG, in exchange for more emissions.

    I’d be much more interested in being able to select the excess-horsepower delete option, the dozen-airbag delete option, the fat A pillar and oversized high mounted outside mirror delete options, and the enhanced rear visibility package. An amazing amount of the benefit of all that technology has gone into giving the most basic econoboxes acceleration that is unnecessary for safe driving and speed no one will (or should) ever use in the public roads. About ten years ago my daily driver was a FWD ’89 Cadillac. It weighed about 3400 pounds (about 500 less than a 2013 CTS). It was easy to see out of. It was the last year cars were sold without airbags. It did 0-60 in a shade under ten seconds and probably topped out at about 105 and that was fine. With 1989 technology I got 24 MPG on the highway. With 2013 technology but the same weight and the same performance parameters, you probably could get 50 MPG.

    Or, if you created a class of light city car exempt from various regs, sort of like a 1960 Bianchina with a modern drivetrain, you could have 75 MPG cars without complex hybrid or short-range EV setups.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Here’s what I believe, normal cars, like my ’12 4Runner for example, should have emission controls on them. There’s no reason not to. Our normal daily drivers are just fine with them.

    However, I live in California. Recently I discussed the possibility of importing a ’78-’81 Nissan Skyline GT-ES Turbo, but CARB pretty much makes it an impossibility to do so. What’s incredibly stupid about CARB is how strict they are on modification, even if it quite literally does improve emissions. Case in point, my hypophetical ’78 Skyline; it had a 140hp L20ET engine, a 2.0L OHC Turbo 6 cylinder with no intercooler or even blow off valve. Let’s suppose that I wanted to install a SR20DET or even a RB26DETT into it. The SR would be a cleaner burning engine no doubt, even the RB too, but it would still be illegal according to CARB, even if the sniff test would pass with flying colors. They would prefer the dirtier L series engine only because it’s correct to the vehicle. Stuff like that is asinine. I find CARB to be such, though as a whole, CARB is very much anti- enthusiast car.

  • avatar
    RJM

    I went for the environmental approach. I have a solar-electric panel and a Nissan Leaf for in-town (great acceleration from the stoplights)and a pius Prius for longer trips or when the wife and I need to go different places at the same time. I just wish the government would keep the pressure for improved batteries and Thorium-cycle nuclear electricity.
    Researchers are developing nano-tech batteries with 10 times the capacity per weight of current Li-Ion batteries, and the waste from Thorium cycle nuclear plants can be re-used to eliminate the multi-thousand year toxicity. (Problem is that plutonium is one of the intermediates – need to have adequate security)


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