No sooner than I said “make ’em pay” about SUVs, some state legislator comes up with legislation to do just that.
Only this, reported by Riverside Press Enterprise Sacramento correspondent Jim Miller, isn’t what I had in mind:
Legislation by state Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, to open the state’s carpool lanes to motorists who buy carbon offset credits had about as much chance Tuesday as the owner of a gas-guzzling 1972 Lincoln Continental scoring a coveted “clean-air vehicle” sticker.
Battin, tongue firmly in cheek, said he was disappointed that the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee had blocked his attempt to reduce global warming.
In truth, Battin, a climate-change skeptic, wanted to highlight what he sees as the hypocrisy of Al Gore, Gov. Schwarzenegger and others who have led the charge to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. They have popularized the purchase of carbon offsets to compensate for air travel and other carbon-heavy activities.
As it happened, I was at that same hearing scraping together a story about the Bay Area’s efforts to add a dollar to vehicle registrations to pay for better traffic management. The bill came up before I arrived and a certain transportation official told me that the committee had a great laugh before drop-kicking the bill.
According to Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the bill was “very well intentioned and has some very good ideas,” but would negate carpool lanes as we know them.
What surprised me were that several senators present seemed to be taking the thing quite seriously.
“I think it’s a very reasoned and cogent argument,” said Sen. Gilbert Cidillo, D-Los Angeles, while Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Redondo Beach, did not hide her displeasure, noting that Lowenthal was right that the bill “would in essence eliminate HOV lanes (and) because of that, I absolutely won’t support the bill.”
Oropeza said the main purpose of high-occupancy vehicle lanes is to reduce congestion, and that has the side benefit of helping air quality as well.
Ahh. Some meat-and-potatoes logic in Sacramento. Yum.
But then Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, had to take the thing seriously:
My concern is about the trading of offsets … The idea of trading carbon credits is an as-yet untested policy in California and it is a very, very big issue …
She went on to talk about how environmental justice groups are debating whether trading offsets actually reduce emissions.
I mean, we’re talking about carbon offsets for Hummers in the free lane on the Bay Bridge. Yes, I suppose it could help support a wind farm somewhere, but let’s be real here.
It is great that Battin got people talking about trading pollution credits, which appears to be his main reason for authoring the bill, according to Miller’s story:
Battin bought $45 worth of carbon offsets last fall from a company called DriveNeutral to make up for using a Lincoln Aviator as his state vehicle.
“I was figuring, if they can live that lifestyle by buying carbon credits, then I can, too,” he said. “I can live guilt-free. I don’t know what happened with the money, though.”
Carbon atom diagram from www.phy.cuhk.edu.hk.