Blindly Trusting the Automobile InterestsSupporters of the...


January 01, 1995

Blindly Trusting the Automobile Interests

Supporters of the new auto emissions tests (letters, Dec. 17) have focused rebuttals on Robert N. Cadwalader's views rather than address the major weaknesses associated with the new testing program.

Regarding Baltimore's air quality management, the improvements in reducing automobile emissions have been set back primarily due to the significant increases in highways, people and automobiles.

Population and economic pressures continue to overwhelm environmental quality issues, including pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. And, if Gov.-elect Parris Glendening gets his wish, higher speed limits will further set back air quality progress.

By placing increasing demands (both economic and administrative) on all of Maryland's automobile owners to meet new emission standards, we have conveniently lost focus on the pollution prevention target areas.

First, it has been the Environmental Protection Agency's lawyers, not the "earth-bound scientists" letter writer Dan Helfrich places his trust in, who have negotiated with automotive manufacturers' lawyers regarding the best available technology standards to accept for automobile emissions.

These federal and state government lawyers are not overly concerned with the costs (time and money) borne by Maryland's citizens for questionable air quality improvements. The government's efforts toward reduced automobile emissions should be focused on the automotive manufacturers.

Consumers will rightfully pay higher prices for these emission-technology improvements at the time of purchase. It seems ludicrous, however, to expect each automobile owner to also assume a lifetime responsibility for annually improving automobile emissions after the point of sale.

A5 Astute readers will remember the past controversy

over the use of remote sensing pollution devices placed along highways. These inexpensive devices can identify the small but important set of automobiles and trucks that are the key polluters in our air sheds.

These remotely sensed tests effectively catch cars and large trucks alike in the act of polluting our air, as opposed to testing all drivers for simulated pollution at costly state testing garages. Ask any mechanic, they know how to cheat on these garage tests.

Remote sensing emission testing technology has been available for over a decade and has been well documented as the most cost-effective anti-pollution technology available and as the least burdensome procedure for the nonpolluting public.

Those with vested interests, however, in new construction of testing facilities and creating larger tax-based bureaucracies have not steered Maryland's leaders in the best "earth-bound scientific" direction.

So rather than lambaste Mr. Cadwalader's arguments, let Maryland's readers initiate serious questions, as many other states recently have, regarding the scientific and bureaucratic merits of the new auto emission testing program.

While we all should share in common goals for a cleaner environment, we should not be so willing to blindly trust lawyers, government bureaucrats and the automotive industry to delivery Maryland's citizens with the optimum solutions.

Maybe we should revisit Mr. Cadwalader's higher perspective and also ask our new governor to slow down a little.

Timothy W. Foresman


The writer, an assistant professor at UMBC, was formerly a research scientist with the EPA.

65 Makes Sense

Regarding the "Bubba Glendening" editorial Dec. 18, excoriating the governor-elect for advocating a 65-mph speed limit on Maryland's interstate highways, it seems that Sun editors need to get out of their conference room and actually drive their cars on those highways they would continue to restrict to 55 miles per hour.

My experiences on 65-mph interstate highways have been quite different from those you describe. I have never seen them resemble a racetrack.

Traffic flows in a much more orderly fashion than that on a 55-mph interstate. This appears to result from the speed limit being closer to the design speed of the highway.

Oh sure, occasionally you see a lone vehicle zooming past you, but in my experience that is the exception rather than the rule. There just isn't as much temptation to disregard a speed limit which has not been arbitrarily lowered.

Incidentally, in Europe, 70-plus-mph speed limits are common, and some highways have no speed restrictions at all. Yet their highways are as safe as ours, if not more so.

Gov.-elect Parris Glendening, in advocating the higher speed limit, is simply listening to Maryland drivers who are tired of the Draconian 55-mph limit.

No doubt he is also considering ways to better allocate public safety resources in these times of fiscal crisis than tying up manpower to enforce the 55-mph limit that most Maryland drivers do not want.

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