April 11, 2011  |  Comments
Smog on the highway? You better hold your breath.

Photo By  Wouter Postma

Smoggy Los Angeles skyline. Creative Commons photo via Flickr.

Smog on the highway? You better hold your breath.

I remember it vividly: The early ’90s, sitting for hours upon hours at our local “car smog test” site to have my parents’ car inspected. Living in Florida and being eight-years-old, it was more boring than math homework. And hot, as we sat for hours upon hours without A/C for our turn. Suddenly, it just stopped. Well, it seemed to just stop — I was eight. But I have found legit reasons why the nationally-based EPA has made car emissions testing a state decision, rather than nationwide.

Smog testing

Photo By Mandy Goldberg

Creative Commons photo via Flickr.

A bit of background for those unfamiliar with the term emissions: (Take a deep breath here.) Read the EPA’s latest report titled “A Comprehensive Analysis of Biodiesel Impacts on Exhaust Emissions”. The report details which chemicals are OK to emit and which aren’t. For those who are fine just knowing that excessive emissions are bad for the ozone and not environmentally-friendly skip the read.

I’m going to get Earth-Day-is-so-controversial here and say perhaps it’s a good thing that the government passed on the option of emissions testing to individual states. While I do hate having to hold my breath against highway smog, emissions and smog-testing programs forced on states by the government were a waste of resources.

My parents would regularly pay the local emissions-testing gas station to get the “I PASSED!” sticker without a single test. I bet they weren’t the only ones who didn’t feel waiting in line in the car for hours at testing sites, especially when statistics show most counties passed current regulations. (I hope there is no Statute of Limitations, if so, sorry Mom.)

According to Florida’s DMV site, many counties allegedly registered air clean enough to make the tests obsolete, therefore just a waste of resources.

In a sharp contrast to Florida’s lax rules, California has the most stringent emissions testing regulations, initially passed in 2002. And state legislation isn’t done being strict: A proposed 2012 plan would impose even more stringent rules, which would increase the price of cars, firing up car manufacturers.

States are slowly getting the answer: Keep emissions testing a historical act—no states should implement them. But, each state should get creative and give credits to car owners with low emission rates. In fact, it’s already happening. In some Florida counties, hybrid vehicles with specific low-emission stickers can use special carpool/HOV lanes any time of day – no matter how many people are in the car. Now, that’s cool.

In addition, there are several different types of emissions reduction incentive grants, some which are provided to communities and cities to create environmentally friendly options for commuters and travelers. Often these grants include programs to purchase hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

There’s also the carbon credit- specifically the Carbon Credit for Emissions Reduction Programs which sets a cap on the amount of carbon (in the form of greenhouse gases) that industries can produce—a must for developing countries. Each country is allowed so many carbon credits, which are equivalent to acceptable fossil fuel emissions (specifics were determined and signed during the last Kyoto Protocol).

Emissions recap

Florida is relaxed, California needs to relax, and even developing countries are on board with reducing emissions and improving air quality. Believe it or not, tons of low emissions programs offering incentives are sprouting everywhere. Just not through corrupt, hour-long waits to have your car tested—corrupt and easily surpassed by slipping the gas attendant a $20.

Besides, I’d choose cruising the HOV lane during rush hour in my hybrid over sweating in an old Camry for three hours in emissions test lines any day.

About Dara Solomon

Dara Solomon is a contributing writer and freelance SEO specialist in Boca Raton, Fla.
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  • MikeLaMonica

    Florida stopped smog tests in July of 2000. If I recall correctly there were two main “arguments.” 1) At the time the economy was booming and there were so many new cars on the road that it became inefficient to test the all the 1999 Honda Civics of the world. 2) And as you stated, air tests were in “acceptable ranges.” So they axed it and you know $ was in the decision mix.

    I grew up in NY where the tests were more rigorous- tire wear, signal lights, emissions, seat belt checks etc. I’d be all for testing again. Not because of what kind of car I drive. But because I have brought a son into the world and I want him to breathe clean air.

    Anyway, I’m done. Thanks for the post.


  • Dara Solomon

    I hear ya, Mike– I really wanted to research these smog articles and get Earth Day feedback from readers–for the sole reason of my grandkids. I’d rather them (or my kids) NOT have to wear gas masks 24/7 because of our Hummers. (No offense to Hummer owners, just an example.)

    As always, thanks for the comment and your feedback =)