Countless hours wasted in gridlock isn’t the only problem with millions of cars on the road. So too is the way they have of making otherwise beautiful coastal areas look like downtown Beijing.
Three years and three thousand miles ago I had a colleague – an energy analyst – who would routinely laugh at California’s stringent gasoline rules. And from an outsider’s perspective, they really do look dumb. It was only last October that California endured surging gasoline prices and rationing when a series of refinery disruptions curtailed supplies. At the time, Bill Day, a spokesman for Valero explained the situation to The New York Times this way: “California requires a specific blend of gasoline that only the refineries on the West Coast make. So when there is a shortage of that blend, you can’t just send supplies from somewhere else.”
That certainly looks like a self-inflicted wound; something even deserving of ridicule. Nowhere else in the country experiences similar price spikes and shortages. But the view is different from the Getty Museum, or any other vantage point high enough to overlook Los Angeles. From that perspective it doesn’t appear as if environmental rules are too stringent but rather that burning gasoline in California is still too easy and too cheap.