Look closely at the editorial photo. OK, I am giving it my best effort to raise funds to pay for gasoline, but look closely and note the price per gallon. Wow, that’s really good, very affordable, and must have been taken a long time ago. Well, it was, is, and was.
For starters, the picture ran in my For Starters column back in 2000, more than a decade ago. Then I was lamenting how fast gasoline prices were escalating and wondering when it would stop and who could afford these runaway prices. Turns out all of us will purchase the gas regardless of the price and regardless of whether we can truly “afford” it. Talk about an addictive drug—gasoline clearly is the most widely used “drug” and readily available to nearly all of us.
My fellow California drivers, during one six-month period in 2011, used nearly 7.3 billion gallons of gasoline, down 1.7 percent from the same period in 2010, and off 3.5 percent from the first half of 2002. This was happening when California was continually adding more drivers to the state’s roads. We hot rodders must compete for “space” with 23.8 million licensed drivers in 2011, and that’s 1.8 million, or 8.3 percent, more drivers than 2002.
But there’s more. There is an increase in hybrid and electric vehicles. Clearly this is part of the decrease in gasoline use. In 2002, there were no hybrids available and 3,461 electric vehicles registered in California. Now at the beginning of 2012 the DMV tells us hybrid registration is 400,000 and an additional 100,000 electric vehicles are on the road. Both of these numbers are growing daily. (These numbers don’t reflect the growing numbers of CNG-powered vehicles. This is my personal favorite as I could use this in both my daily driver and hot rod. But there will be more on CNG in the future.)
But here’s what I find so frustrating. At a time when Californians and the rest of the country are driving less, my beloved Golden State cannot see its way to “cut us car guys” a break. Once again, when a piece of legislation came before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee vote that would have given car guys (and gals) a bit of a “thank you” for driving less and using less gasoline, they couldn’t bring themselves to say “yes.” The bill failed via a 3-4 vote, with two committee members not voting. I may be sniveling about legislation that is California-only but each state has its own hiccups. All of us need to be vigilant with regards to what each of our states are doing, or not doing, to hamper our hobby through a “lack of knowledge,” rather than an informed decision.
For those unaware I am referring to legislation (SB 1224) to exempt all motor vehicles prior to the 1981 model year from the emissions inspection requirement. I went to SEMA and asked if the legislation did have some worthwhile points. Here are a few undeniable facts that elected officials couldn’t see their way around:
1. SB 1224 recognizes the minimal impact of pre-’81 vehicles on emissions and air quality.
2. SB 1224 acknowledges that pre-’81 vehicles still constitute a minuscule portion of the overall vehicle population and are a poor source from which to look for emissions reduction.
3. SB 1224 endorses the fact that pre-’81 vehicles are overwhelmingly well maintained and infrequently driven (a fraction of the miles each year as a new vehicle).
4. For years, legislators, regulators, and stationary source polluters have felt the heat from failed efforts to meet air quality goals and have looked to older cars as a convenient scapegoat, using false data and inflated annual mileage assumptions to further their case. SB 1224 helps validate the truth.
I’m sure both sides have their data to represent their view but at some point it has to become a simple matter that legislators have become so bogged down in all aspects of government they cannot get anything right. It’s unfortunate but once again hot rodders are bearing the burden that is not theirs alone. Here’s hoping that the next time a piece of simple legislation comes across any of our legislators’ desks they might be able to see more clearly.