Earlier today, I read dueling op-eds in the Rochester Post-Bulletin concerning the pending Clean Car legislation. The choice before us is whether we adopt the Federal EPA’s standards or California’s standards. Sen. Marty, Sen. Ropes, Rep. Hortman & Rep. Aaron Peterson spend most of their time defending their legislation. Here’s their most indefensible statement:

FACT: More than 75 percent of Minnesotans favor the legislation.

In addition to loving our trucks and cars, Minnesotans also value our lakes, rivers and streams; our forests and natural areas; wildlife habitat and clean air; and way of life.

In a statewide poll conducted by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in fall 2007, more than 75 percent of voters supported legislation requiring new cars and trucks registered in the state to meet lower emission standards.

With all due respect to this group, the polling says that 75 percent of Minnesotans want “new cars and trucks registered in the state to meet lower emission standards.” That isn’t the same as them supporting this legislation. It’s intellectually dishonest for them to say that. The best we can verifiably say is that this poll doesn’t slam the door shut on this legislation. Such intellectual dishonesty should raise red flags to serious factcheckers.

The only way that we can know if “more than 75 percent of Minnesotans favor the legislation” is if the poll were to lay out California’s regulations, then compare California’s regulations with the EPA’s regulations, then ask the poll’s respondents which set of regulations they prefer.

Another troubling aspect of this legislation is the premise that CARB is built on. Here’s a key part of that foundation:

Greenhouse Effect -The natural “greenhouse effect” allows the earth to remain warm and sustain life. Greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, like a blanket, and help determine our climate. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is being drastically altered by human activity.

Notice the certainty in that final statement. The best we can say about that is that we aren’t certain of that. We can say that the Earth’s climate is changing but it’s far from certain that greenhouse gas levels are “drastically altered by human activity.”

Keep in mind that California’s regulations are based, at least in part, on that premise being settled fact.

The thought that our emissions regulations would be regulated by California environmentalists is a scary thought. The op-ed submitted by Scott Lambert, Rick Ryan and Roger Moore highlights some troubling things, such as this:

The environmental community has a firm grip on CARB, and while Minnesotans affected by regulatory whims in California vainly look to their ballots, they will find no California representatives to seek relief from. That’s just the way environmentalists want it. Regulation without representation. They know what’s best for us.

This type of top-down model of government goes against every libertarian instinct known to man. It also goes against market principles.

The top-down management model doesn’t fit into today’s world because there are more people using the internet to gather information, which they then use to make more informed decisions more consistently.

I can’t stress that point vigorously enough because it’s the best path to good governance.

History shows that Minnesotans want to be good environmental stewards. It’s also true that we prefer having an influence on the regulations that we’re subject to. If we adopt California’s emission standards, we will have ceded the last bit of influence we have on the regulatory process.

The good news is that, if we don’t pass this legislation, then the federal EPA regulations will be what we’re governed by.

That’s a better option because Minnesota legislators would then be able to influence the EPA’s regulations with legislation. While that isn’t as appealing as Minnesotans setting the regulations directly, it’s a superior model than giving CARB total control of our environmental regulations.

Here’s another graph that is troubling:

There are only two air quality standards available to Americans: the EPA standards which we all default into, or the California standards which were designed in the 1970s to deal with California’s smog problems. Eleven other states with similar serious smog issues have adopted these standards.

Why do we need to adopt such drastic measures? We certainly aren’t facing the environmental problems that California faced in the 1970’s. This type of ‘the sky is falling’ model of governance is heavy-handed and foolish. It’s quite possibly dangerous, too.

What Marty, Peterson, Ropes and Hortman want is to adopt regulations meant to clean up the environmental disaster of 1970’s Californian. We don’t have the environmental troubles in 21st century Minnesota that 1970’s California had.

The next logical question that must be answered is simple: Why do Sen. Marty, Rep. Peterson, Sen. Ropes and Rep. Hortman offer this legislation? I suspect that it’s because they don’t trust citizens to govern themselves. I suspect that they prefer letting unaccountable bodies make important decisions for us because it takes accountability and control out of our hands.

That type of governance should be utterly discredited and totally discarded. Washington regulations are bad enough. California regulations are worse. Simply put, if someone wants to regulate us, then we should have a say in the decisionmaking process.

That’s unacceptable.

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