The CARB quandary

Alas, poor CARB. The California Air Resources Board is charged with cleaning up some of the dirtiest air in the country to help protect the health of its citizens, surely a laudable goal. Many of those very citizens, however, are not feeling any warm rushes of gratitude for the Board's efforts. Far from it

Alas, poor CARB. The California Air Resources Board is charged with cleaning up some of the dirtiest air in the country to help protect the health of its citizens, surely a laudable goal. Many of those very citizens, however, are not feeling any warm rushes of gratitude for the Board's efforts. Far from it. Instead, some are fuming and furious.

Much of the wrath currently directed at CARB is largely a matter of economic circumstances. The revised CARB rule issued in December 2008 required virtually all on-highway truck and bus owners that operate in the state to install diesel particulate filters on their equipment by 2014 and to replace engines older than model-year 2010 between 2012 and 2022. At the same time, freight levels were already plummeting. Now, after nearly two years of tough times, carrier cupboards are almost bare and they are carefully managing costs hoping to make it across the recovery finish line.

When CARB issued its rule for the retrofit of off-road equipment some four years ago, on the other hand, the construction business was booming. Now that the effective date for that rule has come, however, the construction business is in even a sorrier state than fleets hauling general freight.

According to the Associated General Contractors (AGC), when CARB officials wrote the rule, they estimated that construction employment in California would grow by 8,000 jobs per year between 2006 and 2014. They also anticipated that construction valuation would increase by $10 billion between 2007 and 2009. Instead, the state has lost 330,000 construction jobs since 2006 and seen a $13 billion drop in real GDP originating from the construction industry.

There are other complaints leveled at CARB, as well, most notably for failing to update the data concerning vehicle emissions upon which their new regulations are based and for issuing a supporting health study that turned out to be authored by someone falsely claiming to have a doctorate in statistics from UC Davis. Talk about toxic emissions. These issues did not help to endear anyone to the CARB cause.

The current disgruntlement with CARB on the part of some members of the trucking industry is not a matter of simple foot-dragging, resistance to change or an unwillingness to do its part. People in trucking care about clean air and safeguarding the environment for their children as much as other Americans do, and the industry has a 20-year list of achievements in productivity and emissions reductions to prove it.

Now CARB is taking a second look at its pending retrofit rules while the industry waits and wonders where the rules will go from here? It is a critical question because some 22 other states may well follow California's lead — wherever it takes them.

A special report called “Deciding Our Futures” in the January-February issue of The Futurist seems to have come along just in time to help. Experts who face tough decisions every day in hospital emergency rooms, boardrooms and other pressure-packed environments offer suggestions for how to make better decisions based upon better decision-making processes. Some of their numerous suggestions could help CARB (and all the rest of us) find the best paths forward. For example: Approach unique situations with extra care because, by definition, they have no learning curve; obtain additional data if you need it and don't just dismiss possible negative outcomes; and finally, don't rely on the “inside view” when the outside view provides more useful information.

I have one more thought to add: For heaven's sake, sit down with industry leaders and decide the future together. After all, we are heading into it together.

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