The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is about to pass legislation intended to reduce heat in automobiles by requiring automakers to use metallic reflective window glazing on “rigid windows.” Curiosity naturally prompts one to wonder why legislators in California are desirous of the hot air in their constituents’ cars when a great amount of it already blows through the halls of the capitol building. The answer, global warming, comes as no surprise to those familiar with the priorities of California’s state politicians. Californians should be wary of temptation to dismiss the issue of glass glazing as unimportant – we should also think well about what isn’t being questioned.
Proponents of the legislation believe it straightforward and sensible. The goal is to keep cars cooler by making windows more resistant to heat. If a car is cool inside, drivers will be less likely to use air conditioning. If drivers use less air conditioning, then they use less gasoline. Since 9.5 percent of America’s imported crude oil is used to produce the 7 billion gallons of fuel per year consumed by light-duty vehicle air conditioning, there is great potential for saving gasoline. Apply the law of large numbers to gasoline saved due to less air conditioning use and viola – according to the CARB, Californians will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 1 million metric tons by 2012, the date the legislation will be fully implemented. However, even if one doesn’t buy into the assumption that society can end global warming, proponents do not understand why anyone would object to keeping one’s car cooler. After all, who honestly enjoys the hot air blast that greets a driver when he first opens his car door after having left his vehicle sit for a day in a parking lot under the hot sun?
Critics of the legislation certainly do not enjoy hot air blasts, especially when it takes the form of arguments made by proponents that distract voters from the potentially life threatening problems wrought by this legislation. Metallic reflective window glazing, critics argue, blocks radio waves such as those used by garage door openers, cell phones, GPS devices, laptops, and parolee ankle bracelets. Clearly this is problematic: imagine being trapped in a car after an accident and not having a cell signal because the windows prevented signal penetration. In addition, by undermining the ability of GPS devices to function properly, the CARB would be trading a greater good for a lesser good. According to one study, by virtue of providing drivers with shorter routes and preventing them from getting lost, GPS devices reduced carbon emissions by 24%, ten times the total emissions cut expected by the CARB as a result of their legislation.
Interestingly, the CARB both confirms and denies radio wave blockage. According to a CARB frequently asked questions sheet, they conducted a small study in the Southern California Area to determine if GPS devices and cell phones still functioned properly. No details are given about the study, but apparently GPS parolee ankle bracelets as well as cell phones were entirely unaffected by the glazing. On the other hand, signals for after market GPS devices, FastTrak devices (used to bill drivers who drive on California’s carpool lanes alone) and garage door openers were prevented from penetrating the windows; therefore, drivers would need to point these devices through special “deletion windows.” Perhaps the world’s leading GPS manufactures should consult with the Department of Corrections to study the advanced technology used in ankle bracelets.
Clearly, if there is good reason to believe that people’s lives will be endangered as a result of window glazing, the members of the CARB should reorder their priorities. However, like I said concerning the healthcare debate, I’m concerned by the questions not being raised. First, who elevated “global warming” to such a degree of importance that the need to prevent it takes precedence over our desire to support a free market? What are their names and how much control over me and the things I buy do they believe they must have in order to solve the global warming problem? Second, if cooler cars via window glazing are such a no-brainer, then why must it be legislated? If there is an obvious market demand, then why must the government grow itself vis-à-vis legislation and oversight, in order to meet the need? Why must we be less free in order to attain a good we’d otherwise have attained naturally and freely? Finally, why is this something state legislators have chosen to care about? My heart is burdened by the problems facing my home state: an unnecessary and artificially created drought in central California killing jobs and produce, the highest taxes on business in the nation, a jobless rate over 12%, schools that are understaffed and overburdened with union demands, and the list goes on.
Are cooler cars a good idea? Yes, and California is full of smart, creative, designers and engineers empowered by the free market to create the products and technology to cool our cars. When they do, I’ll be the first in line to make a purchase. However, the CARB’s current legislation is facing critiques that, if valid, pose real danger to the best interest of Californians. The critiques ought to be taken seriously, the legislation defeated, and state legislators ought to focus on solving the serious problems they already have, such as high taxes, education, etc., instead of expanding government in order to address problems the free market is better equipped and designed to solve.
*Image courtesy Image Shack. ‘