AB 616: California Smog Bill

March 16th, 2007 by William


Recently it came to my attention through my extensive “car guy” connections that there is a bill running through the California legislature that might impact the automotive community. A.B. 616 was introduced in the California Assembly by Assemblyman Dave Jones. Part of the proposed bill would require annual smog check inspections for vehicles 15-years old and older. It would also require that funds generated through the additional inspection fees be deposited into an account which can be used to scrap older cars. Cars built before 1976 would still remain exempt from smog checks, and presumably cars newer than 15 years old would only need them every couple of years as is the law today. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Click for full text of the Assembly Bill as it was introduced:

I haven’t had time to analyze the wording of this Bill too much; however a politically minded vintage car enthusiast that I know sent an interesting response to one of the email lists I subscribe to. He shall remain nameless to protect his identity but this is what he had to say about AB 616:

As a California citizen and auto enthusiast, I am concerned about your
support of AB 616. I think that the current smog laws do not take many environmental
concerns into account and AB 616 is a great example of this. Between 60% and 80% of the pollution an automobile will ever make in its operational lifetime is created in the manufacturing process, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers. It is therefore preferable from an
environmental point of view to keep the old cars on the road rather than manufacturing new ones, as the environmental impact of the older vehicles has already been absorbed by the planet.
If you do a bit of research on the manufacture of the batteries for Toyota hybrids, you will find an area of Canada that looks like the surface of the moon because of the plant that makes the batteries. Moving pollution around so that no one notices is not a good solution to the problem.
Other possible solutions might include: simplifying the process of smog checks to look at tail pipe emissions only, which would take some of the financial burden off of the consumer, reduce the temptation to ‘cheat’, and possibly allow for some innovations that may further reduce pollution; having the state pay for engine rebuilds/swaps and tune ups for cars over a certain age, which would cost about the same as enforcing the current program but would create jobs (and tax revenue from those jobs) and foster a cooperative rather than antagonistic relationship between consumers and the state, and probably be far more effective environmentally; sponsor a bill that creates a really good public transportation system state wide in order to reduce reliance on personal motor vehicles, which would again create jobs
and reduce pollution; propose a law that taxes vehicles based on their fuel consumption in order to encourage fuel efficiency to be a factor on the purchase of new vehicles.

Further, the current laws look as though they were dreamed up by auto manufacturers in order to encourage consumption rather than environmentalism. The entire burden of payment is brought upon the consumers in the form of smog check fees, taxes, fuel additive costs and new vehicle costs. The role of the state is like a thug/enforcer that deems a car undriveable and sends the consumer to the car dealer to get another, assessing taxes the entire way… By supporting new car sales over proper maintenance, we are in effect supporting the destruction of the environment in Mexico and Canada (see NAFTA, just the parts that benefit corporations as that seems to be the only part we are interested in enforcing), the erosion of the American workforce and economy and by extension health care and other social services.

Do something meaningful about the environment. AB 616 is not it. Buying new cars is not it. Enforcing all of NAFTA would be a start. Taking practical steps to work with consumers in order to reduce pollution would be another positive step. More frequent smog checks and crushing more cars makes about as much sense as testing kids in school every year to see if
they meet some imaginary benchmark of performance and then fining the schools if they don’t make the grade…Oh wait, I forgot that we are doing that…

Public service means a lot. I hope that you and your fellow public servants are up to the full implications of that task. We do not need any more band aid solutions to our problems. We as a society need real solutions that look at causality that may not be simple or obvious, and
solve the systemic problems we have instead of the symptoms that are so easy to get on a soap box about. Band aids are for crisis symptoms, real work prevents crisis from occurring.
Thank you for your time.


While I don’t agree totally agree with what he says, he makes many valid points. One thing that is a bit deceptive is the pollution statistic. I’m sure that the total pollution from a car manufactured now is less than it was 25 years ago, so the 60-80% from production might also be significantly less (as well as tail pipe pollution). However, I do agree that this is a Band Aid fix, and doesn’t deal with the core of the problem. The car hobbyist lobby has proven powerful in defeating this type of bill in the past; it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Bill Mertz

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About William

I am a twenty something car enthusiast. I spend most of my days working in a small restoration shop in Northern California that specializes in vintage Alfa Romeos. I also manage to do some freelance writing for a handful of automotive publications. When I'm not at the shop I can usually be found working on one of my own project cars, out driving on a good windy road or good jeep trail. Despite what my girlfriend says cars aren't what defines me, they are only what I do. When I have a chance I also love to go camping, play sports or generally do any type of outdoor activity. I don't take myself to seriously, so I hope you don't either.

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