There have been a plethora of automotive media outlets publishing article after article analyzing the recent EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles–Phase 2 proposal. If you’ve recently returned from a fortnight’s trip in the woods, pretending to be Bear Grylles (hopefully not having consumed any of your own urine), let me direct you to this Jalopnik article that can get you up to speed.
I don’t intend to focus on the broad-brush-stroke details of this proposal as I feel other news sources have beat that horse to death already, but I do want to discuss what I think may be some of the repercussions of this proposal. First and foremost being the unprecedented effect this will have on the $36 billion aftermarket automotive parts industry. Now, obviously, the EPA couldn’t give two shits about your coilovers or your fake carbon fiber spoilers; those types of aftermarket parts and modifications can go on uninhibited, but God forbid you modify anything in your engine compartment. The truly scary part about this is that if you are found having tampered with your emissions equipment, the EPA can fine you nearly $38,000. This, to me, just seems egregious. Because so many of us have told the EPA we think they’re out of line in the last week, the EPA has clarified that their true intention is to crack down on those who have modified their cars for road use, not off-road/track use. Supposedly they won’t come to your local LeMons race and start handing out fines like AOL trial CDs in 1998. But if this is truly the case, why can’t this ridiculous 600-some page document be amended to reflect this supposed objective? To me it feels that the EPA has clearly stated their true motive in their proposal, and now that public outcry is putting pressure on the organization, they’re trying to hold back the rising tide by saying: “Oh don’t worry… that’s not really what we meant. Relax guys, we’re your friends.” But if you modify your car based on some arbitrary statement a random EPA representative made, who's to stop the EPA Gestapo from coming to your track day with a ridiculous bill with your name on it? Nothing. Because if this proposal goes through, it clearly states in writing that they have every right to.
I think the truly scary thing is that this proposal does not have to go up for congressional vote. If the EPA decides they’re going to push through this proposal unaltered, there really isn’t much our supposedly representative government can do about it. Now, you could argue that this is what lobbies are for. I would venture to guess that SEMA and the aftermarket industry's lobby is half-decent considering their remarkable size, but there is only so much arguing and yelling we can do if the EPA turns up their collective middle finger and tells us to take a hike.
I can’t help but feel a nagging sensation in my gut that this is the beginning of the end for us. There seems to be an absolutely relentless war on the petrol-powered car. I think it’s only a matter of time before the majority of society is in favor of banning them all together, despite the fact that there are a number of industries that do more damage to the environment than those automotive related (we’ll save that discussion for another article). Unfortunately, I don’t think electric cars are going to be our savior, either. The fatal combination of advances in autonomous cars, our society’s increasing laziness, and this incessant need to rid the world of anything considered remotely dangerous leads me to believe autonomous cars will be made mandatory in shorter time than any of us would care to admit.
So the question becomes: “What do we do?” For starters, I’d do as Jason Torchinsky on Jalopnik suggested in this article, and tell the EPA where they can shove this proposal. Secondly, you won’t be able to sway your congressional representatives’ vote by writing them, because they don’t have a vote in this matter, but it’s hard for me to believe that writing to them explaining the effect this could have on the aforementioned $36b aftermarket parts industry can't hurt. The last thing any elected representative wants to be caught in favor of is demolishing an industry and causing unemployment. And last of all, I’d suggest truly enjoying this hobby, whole-heartedly, for as long as possible, because we truly don’t know how much time we have left.
- Michael Beck