Blowup at the bogus checkpoint
Improved technology has done more to reduce environmental harm than government emissions tests
As I recently sat in a seemingly endless line of cars at the Maryland vehicle emissions checkpoint, the engine in my 1999 Ford suddenly growled, shuttered and conked out cold. Maybe this was karma for my decades of scoffing at harebrained government regulations?
As I waited 90 minutes for a tow truck, I watched a stream of vehicles tarry up to half an hour to proceed through the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) gauntlet. This test is touted as a golden shield for air quality, but the Maryland Department of Environment was unable to provide any data on its benefits after I sent them an inquiry.
Drivers in 31 states must comply with similar tests thanks to the Clean Air Act. States that displease the EPA, which dictates the compliance regulations, risk losing federal highway funds. The tests have been in the news lately thanks to Volkswagen’s software switcheroo that sent misleading signals when its diesel engines took government emission tests. But regardless of Volkswagen’s perfidy, do the tests, which began before revolutions in auto engine designs, make any sense?
An EPA air compliance inspector in Alaska admitted in 2012, “You’re just not finding a lot of dirty cars any more.” A Colorado government audit recently concluded that the “public need” for its emission testing regime was “uncertain” and recommended exempting all vehicles from model year 2001 onwards. (Maryland exempts only the two most recent model years.)