Why won’t Arnold back smog checks for motorcycles?

arnold-on-newsweek1This is a law blog, so call this post Easy Rider v. Planet Saver.  The California legislature is considering a bill (SB 435, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavley of the clean-car “Pavley Regs” fame) requiring motorcyles to undergo bienniel smog checks, just like cars and trucks do.

The bill would take aim at a significant remaining source of smog-forming emissions.  Who knew motorcycles were this dirty?  This from the LA Times:

Motorcycles account for 3.6% of registered vehicles in the state, and they make up just eight-tenths of a percent of vehicle-miles traveled, yet they account for 10% of passenger vehicles’ smog-forming emissions. . . . Although fuel-efficient bikes emit significantly less carbon dioxide per mile than cars, the ARB says they are, on average, 14 times more polluting per mile when it comes to emissions of oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons – smog-forming pollutants that have been shown to trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory and cardiac illnesses.

California’s air continues to be the worst in the nation (as Rick recently blogged about here — reporting that “Southern California retained its number one ranking as the country’s worst ozone-polluted metropolitan area.”).  And Arnold has made a name for himself as the Green Governor, pushing technological solutions to environmental problems.  So why isn’t he backing this measure (the LA Times reports he’s staying neutral)?  Arnold on chopperIs his love of choppers and the freedom of the road causing some cognitive dissonance?

The motorcycle counterculture is notoriously anti-regulation–just consider its resistance to helmet lawsHere’s the president of the Irvine Motorcycle Industry Council on why he objects to the measure: “The whole impact to the consumer of not being able to customize and personalize your motorcycle and tune it as you would like is something we can’t support because we know how valued that is by our customers.”  Sounds like pretty low-octane stuff to me.   Smog checks aren’t perfect, but the most recent official report to the legislature on their efficacy concludes that the reductions achieved through the Smog Check program make it “one of the single largest emission reduction programs in California.”  Arnold should buck up and support the bill.

, , , ,

Reader Comments

6 Replies to “Why won’t Arnold back smog checks for motorcycles?”

  1. If the #’s being reported by the LA Times were anywhere close to accurate they may have a point, but they simply aren’t, not that accuracy has even been one of their strong points.

    The advocates of the test attribute just over 5 ton a day of emissions from MC’s out of a total of over 1,400 tons a day attributed to all mobile sources statewide (CARB’s own #’s) ….not exactly a big contributor by any measure (try 0.35714%)….but what the hell, the industry is already hurting may as well put another couple of thousand people out of work due, the state clearly leads the nation in that already….

  2. If the #’s being reported by the LA Times were anywhere close to accurate they may have a point, but they simply aren’t, not that accuracy has even been one of their strong points.

    The advocates of the test attribute just over 5 ton a day of emissions from MC’s out of a total of over 1,400 tons a day attributed to all mobile sources statewide (CARB’s own #’s) ….not exactly a big contributor by any measure (try 0.35714%)….but what the hell, the industry is already hurting may as well put another couple of thousand people out of work, the state clearly leads the nation in that already….

  3. The LA Times claim that motorcycles “account for 10% of passenger vehicles’ smog-forming emissions” is accurate, as I read it. The three smog-forming pollutants tested in smog checks are NOx, hydrocarbons (or ROG), and CO. Here are data from the 2009 California Almanac of Emissions and Air Quality (available here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/aqd/almanac/almanac09/chap209.htm):

    Passenger vehicles emit 420 tons/day of NOx and ROG combined (2,627 tons/day if you add in CO, which I’m not sure the article was counting)

    Motorcycles emit 55 tons/day of NOx and ROG combined (468 tons/day if you add in CO)

    Either way, motorcycles make up more than 10% of the passenger vehicle emissions.

    But your larger point, I think, is that the proponents of smog testing for motorcycles predict a savings of only 5 tons/day of these pollutants, which is a very small slice of the overall emissions pie and, you argue, not worth the effort and cost.

    CARB itself agrees that it’s a very small piece of the pie–tiny, in fact: “It’s so difficult to find new sources of emissions reductions, particularly for L.A.,” said Tom Cackette, the ARB’s deputy director. “Some people think motorcycles look small, and percentage-wise they are tiny, but so is everything else that’s available for emissions reductions.” But our ozone and smog problems remain serious threats to public health, and all the easy fruit has been picked. Going after the remaining small sources seems like the appropriate next step to me.

  4. Are there smog laws that govern the output of hydrocarbons by aircraft such as private,commercial and military? I’ve seen exhaust trails at times forming a steady stream as they soar high above us. Are they exempt so they can achieve better performance? Is that performance causing harm to the environment as well costing all of us our good health? Even over the not so blue skies of Beverly Hills these behemoths deposit their emissions Sen Pavley.

  5. The assumption is that people who own motorcycles, drive them. Doing the math to come up with nox and tons of particulate matter, means that you have to know how much the engine was running. Look at a harley heritage, 1999, lives in a plastic bubble, $30k of after market parts, never driven in the rain, 2,300 total driven miles. Do the math on fiscal impact of implementation of SB 435 versus the bite on the net income to the state, with stupidity like this, it is amazing we have any schools at all. Lets destroy the billions of dollars motorcycle industry, kill the sport fishing industry, paralyze the boating industry, and let our culture depend entirely upon foreign imports to sustain our consumer base. And then lets raise sales tax and fuel costs and destroy that revenue as well. Fire senators and assemblymen and let children run the country. They make more sense.

  6. Yes, motorcycles do cause more pollution the say your Prius. But how big is your Prius carbon footprint to bring it market and sell it off the floor. The marketing and transportation and building of said vehicle or any other vehicle. Motorcycle beat it by quite a bit when measured by that standard. How do they dispose of those exhausted batteries in a GREEN way. I maintained for years that ” Machines do not pollute, people do.” What we need is less people and in a hurry. I don’t see anybody volunteering though.

Comments are closed.

About Cara

Cara Horowitz

Cara Horowitz is the co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. The Emmett Institute was founded as the f…

READ more

POSTS BY Cara