Environment

Would Calif. Really Ban Black Cars to Fight Global Warming?

| by The Heartland Institute

As a relatively new Californian (I ply my trade for The Heartland Institute from Pasadena), I often ask myself: Is there no end to the desire of our state overlords to micromanage every aspect of our lives? Distressingly, the answer is always, “No.”

The latest is a new proposal by the California Air Resources Board that will ban the sale of black cars in the state by 2012. Why? In the name of combating mythical global warming, of course. It just makes so much sense when you think about it.

Black cars absorb more heat than lighter-colored cars in the California sun. Therefore, the AC has to work harder to cool off the car after your trip to the multiplex to see the latest summer blockbuster. If the AC has to work harder, your vehicle will consume more fuel. Consuming more fuel means spewing more CO2 into the atmosphere. And despite the fact that CO2 does not cause global warming, the California legislature passed a bill requiring that the state reduce its CO2 emissions 25 percent by 2020.

So, according to the plan floated by the unelected and unaccountable CARB, auto manufacturers have two choices: come up with new black paint technology that will reflect 20 percent of the sun’s radiant energy, or stop shipping them to California dealers. (No one has yet produced a “compliant” black paint that doesn’t end up looking mud-puddle brown). Great. As if our auto manufacturers don’t have enough problems, this is just the kind of mandate they need — all to reduce the temperature inside your car by 1 degree Celsius.

Lefty control freaks in government often fall back on the (false) notion that large corporations can easily absorb these kinds of arbitrary hikes in operating and manufacturing expenses. But this new mandate would also apply to every little auto body shop in California — and its not cheap to throw out all your old black paint (in an environmentally friendly way, please) and replace it with “space age” reflector paint. Owners of black cars unfortunate enough to get into a little fender bender would also see their repair costs skyrocket.

But you’ve gotta love the attention to detail of California’s bureaucrats. From the document:

Automobile manufacturers must include statement in owner’s manual that failure to use specified paint may impact occupant’s thermal comfort

Repaint facilities must keep records

Yes. As always: “Papers, please.” Can’t have you touching up that scratch on the door from a shopping cart with paint not approved by the state.

The CARB also shares a conceit of all government busy-bodies, that “maintaining a paint requirement spurs innovation and research for reflective paint.” You know what “spurs innovation"? The market and the profit motive. Government “requirements” spur only inefficient use of scarce capital. Little wonder people have been leaving California in droves over the last several years.

This story got the attention of an associate professor of mechanical engineering who specializes in alternative energy, thermal transport phenomena, two-phase flow and fluid and thermal energy systems” — otherwise known as a guy who knows what he’s talking about.

Yikes. I have some familiarity with the physics behind this issue as I teach thermal radiation heat transfer in my courses at OU. What the California legislature is proposing to do here is legislate surface properties like reflectivity, mandating by law that surfaces of automobiles absorb less solar radiation. Why don’t they just outlaw blacktop while they’re at it, as it absorbs solar radiation exceedingly well? In fact, take it a step further and demand white shiny cars for everyone. And wear only white clothes. And all buildings will be made out of mirrors.

Just wait. That’s next. We shouldn’t expect science and common sense to rule here — not when California’s political leaders and bureaucrats are so obsessed with controlling the lives of their subjects. A 45-day comment period starts May 11, and the board is expected to vote on the proposal on June 25 — the height of the Southern California summer. I hope there will be more push-back on this than there was when California started banning that horrifying environmental villain known as the home fireplace.

They’ll take my 1996 black Chevy Cadaver from my cold dead fingers … or when it finally dies, whichever comes first. But I wonder how all those limousine liberals in Hollywood are taking the news. No more elegant black vehicles to shuttle them to parties and award shows. Maybe they can all pile into Ed Begley Jr.’s car that runs on Jamba Juice and compost.

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