Rant: Why “Emissions Inspection” Has Nothing To Do With Clean Air, and Everything To Do With Government Corruption

I just failed “vehicle emissions inspection” on my 2000 Blazer.  What is Emissions Inspection, you might ask?

Lucky.

Under the Clean Air Act (1990), states are required to implement vehicle emission inspection programs in metropolitan areas whose air quality does not meet federal standards.
Wikipedia

Some states have opted out – and all of them should.  Here’s why:

If your vehicle is pre-1975, you’re exempt

old-vw-van

Wait…  So, if you’re driving a truck that was built before companies added counter-pollution measures, you don’t have to get tested.  You could be commuting in a 1970 VW van that leaves a smoke trail rivaling a crop duster, but that doesn’t matter.  Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think that they should have to get an inspection, because I believe that no one should get an inspection.  This segment of vehicles is the very reason a law like this exists – but it is saved with a broad stroke of policy.  Thus, the law has nothing to do with clean air.

If your vehicle is 1975-1995, they test what is coming out of your tailpipe

tailpipe

I mean, if there is any true test of what a car emits, I’d say vehicular colonoscopy would be the way to go.  The only real problem with that is that it would be fairly easy to fake.  All an offender would have to do is redirect the emissions, or at least disburse them so that only a portion reach the tail pipe.  Heck – if your car is in bad enough shape, it’ll do it for you!  A few simple cracks in your exhaust, and voila!  You’ve got yourself a non-polluting golden chariot.  A better test would be to seal the vehicle in a room with multiple sensors, and let it run for an extending period of time.  But I’m definitely not requesting that.

Oh, and there’s also a visual inspection of the gas cap.  Because biased human eyes are the best way to tell if a gas tank is sealed up tight.

If your vehicle is post-1996, they simply query your computer

sick-computer

Here’s where my problem occurred.  I have a problem with my transmission, which meant that my service engine soon light came on.  I’d often heard that if your engine light was on, you would fail an inspection no matter the reason for the light.  My transmission slipping, though definitely not giving me a perfectly smooth ride, doesn’t shelf me in with those nasty pre-75’ers, or those pesky pre-1995’ers!  If you took an an apples to apples comparison, my Blazer would still emit far less than those.  Again – not saying I can’t improve it – but I’m simply arguing that this testing standard doesn’t actually look for emissions.  A better test would still be the equivalent of a rectal thermometer.

Supposedly, if I spend over $200 trying to fix the problem, I get an automatic pass.  I can’t confirm that, as I’ve only heard it from friends of friends of friends.  But if it’s true…

Semis are exempt

semi-pollution

Whaaa?  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a semi, driving down the road, all of a sudden belch out black smoke for a few seconds.  Obviously, that’s not a special air freshener…  Once again – I’m not out to pummel tractor-trailers into submission – they guzzle tremendous amounts of diesel in the name of keeping America running, and kudos to them for it.  But – wouldn’t you say that’s where a lot of our transportation pollution comes from?   The cabs fit in a weight class (over 10,500lbs) that simply doesn’t need to be tested.  Perhaps I should add a few tons to my Blazer, then I wouldn’t need to get an ok from the gov to keep driving, amiright?

And my biggest beef…

It forces thousands of cars in metropolitan areas to idle, emitting needless pollution

traffic-jam

I waited in a line of at least 50 cars for about an hour (the line was out to the middle of the road before turning in), and the two options were to cut off your vehicle and start it every few minutes, or just sit idling.  Naturally, everyone left them running.  And I don’t think it would actually help pollute less if they did the ol’ start/stop method.  But my point is that – to avoid traffic pollution – they are creating hubs of traffic jams for solid 8-hour days.  Traffic jams that would simply not exist if there were no emissions testing.  Sure – people might still be driving during that time – but it’s an hour (plus travel to and from) of extra pollution that every vehicle in a metropolitan area has to cough up.  (pun intended)

Ok, so it’s completely inefficient – but how is it government corruption?

This is where the crazy conspiracy theory David comes into play.

Sure, you could say that, even though it’s not productive in any other way, emissions testing creates jobs.  There were at least 6 “technicians” working there while I was there, who I’m assuming just make minimum wage, or thereabouts.  For the sake of ease, let’s say they make $10/hour, and the test itself costs $10.  That means that, as long as they have one car per hour, they’re paying their own salary.  But it doesn’t take an hour – it’s only a 5 minute process, so they might get through 10 in an hour, which equates to $100; minus $10 for the tech, and the company nets $90 per tech.  With I’d say an average of 3 techs working throughout the month (I went on the last day of the month, so they had more schmucks like myself and more techs than normal), the company itself makes a monthly $518,400 (90/hour*3 techs*8 hours*20 business days in a month*12 months).

Hmm…  That’s good money.  And that’s only one testing station.  I might be off a bit (they actually operate 11 hours a day, plus saturdays, but the volume probably evens out), but since there are a few testing stations in my county, which means it’s possibly a $1.5 million generator.  I assume that the company that does this is owned by a politician’s brother-in-law or campaign contributor.  What other reasons would they have to create a needless law that requires an extra $10 tax on vehicle renewals anyhow?  I’m not going to go into any sort of “keeping tabs on citizens” (they track your milage, and you have to get out of your vehicle while they get in there to do their tests, etc), because I don’t really think that’s going on.  But if I were a bit crazier…

What about you?  Is there anyone else that thinks this is a big pile of trash covered in political spray paint?  Or is everyone else happy to pay them to tell us that our cars are acceptable in their sight?

1 thought on “Rant: Why “Emissions Inspection” Has Nothing To Do With Clean Air, and Everything To Do With Government Corruption

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