An air of disdain
They weren't exactly cause and effect, but the link between new California emissions standards and a recent report by researchers at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley was unmistakable.
Despite the deepening recession, the California Air Resources Board this month imposed precedent-setting air-quality rules requiring as many as 900,000 truckers to retrofit or replace their rigs, an underfunded mandate that will cost the nation's trucking industry $4.5 billion and bankrupt numerous independent haulers. In the end, however, that expense will be paid by consumers through higher costs for the goods that truckers haul.
The culmination of an eight-year war against diesel, the rules aim to reduce by 80 percent of trucks' soot emissions, which the board says cause cancer and heart and lung disease. Regulators said the rules will save Californians $68 billion in health costs in the first 15 years alone, a pulled-out-of-thin-air figure rooted in the sort of advocacy research churned out by Harvard and Cal-Berkeley.
Their study of 31,135 trucking-company workers concluded soot from diesel exhaust puts drivers and dockworkers at greater risk of lung cancer and death, a logical but incomplete assumption. A 2007 report by the Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, said half of all truck drivers are smokers (the national average is 20 percent). Many truckers also are obese and only 1 in 10 get regular aerobic exercise. These and other health-threatening lifestyle choices also fuel the high rates of cancer and heart and lung disease in the trucking industry.
California's new air-quality rules only address soot, but they sure make regulators and the environmental lobby feel good as they raise consumer prices, increase unemployment and bankrupt vital businesses.