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V is for Vehicular Manslaughter

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 17, 2002

 

"Culture change is itself a result—of mind change. When minds change, cultures change automatically. When minds don't change, however, we're limited to passing ever harsher, ever more exacting new laws for people with old minds to break. — Daniel Quinn

Approximately 50,000 Americans are killed each year in automobile accidents. Making death rates for motor vehicle travel considerably higher than all other forms of transportation. An additional 30,000 to 60,000 per year are caused by motor vehicle emissions. Death by Detroit, regardless of whether it comes from a drunk driver or emphysema, is hardly at issue because Americans have decided such carnage is an acceptable price to pay for the convenience of automobiles.

Therefore, the question before us all, in this age of trade and terrorism, is what is the actual cost of continuing to cling to a paradigm that requires pumping for profit, protecting polluters, and purchasing politicians, to maintain its dominance? And can we afford to allow those who profit most from our dependence on fossils fuels to continue dominating foreign and transportation policy, at a time when alternatives are needed most.

Manslaughter comes in three degrees, voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary is when an individuals actions carry intent, but not malice, involuntary is when intent is absent but the result of an individual's actions end in the death of another. Vehicular manslaughter means an automobile has been involved in an accident resulting in the demise of a second party. Which prompts me to ask, if the auto industry is aware that the use of their products will lead to the death of 100,000 people a year, doesn't this make them guilty of voluntary vehicular manslaughter?

Passenger vehicles are a major source of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon Dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Cars and light trucks are responsible for almost 20 percent of C02 emissions in the U.S. annually. In California Passenger vehicles and light trucks, are responsible for 40 percent of green house gas pollution effecting air quality and climate. It is a widely accepted premise that by acting to protect air quality today Californians would save millions on unexpected costs associated with air pollution and global warming.

Encouraging state leadership in developing clean, efficient engine technologies, the legislation will require automakers to cut carbon dioxide pollution from new cars. Promoting modern technology the bill also would reduce other pollutants and save consumers money at the gas pump. But lobbyists are working hard to defeat these advances.

Trucking corporations, the California Chamber of Commerce, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the California Motor Car Dealers Association, reactionary talk radio hosts, and not surprisingly Cal Worthington, have all gone on record against clean air in favor of an imaginary right to pollute. Automakers have fought previous efforts to require air bags, catalytic converters, unleaded gasoline and air bags.

Governor Gray Davis recently announced that he would support the California Climate Bill, Assembly Bill 1493, which as of this writing has already been approved by the legislature. The bill, authored and introduced by Assembly member Fran Pavley, (D-Agoura Hills) sets new emissions standards for passenger cars, minivans, pickups and sport-utility vehicles manufactured in California after of January 1, 2009.

Due to global warming California will be faced with profound economic and environmental consequences. Global warming is already be changing the natural cycles that provide water for people and agriculture, as well as electric power production. Warmer temperatures mean more air pollution, higher air conditioning costs and greater strain on the utility grid.

And if that is not depressing enough, experts predict more frequent and extreme El Niño events. More storms mean more erosion, mudslides and coastal property damage. Changing climate will also further deepen the crisis's involving endangered species and wetlands. More storms mean more erosion, mudslides and coastal property damage.

Across the board, those profiting most from the continued fouling of the environment are sending armies of lobbyists deep into the halls of government to insure the common good is subverted in the name of corporate profit. One would have to be in a coma not to notice that oil industry has set up house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Speaking of dirty business being conducted in the oval office, I wonder which is worse, a blow job of little consequence or an oil job with global implications?

Vehicular manslaughter takes many forms; sadly man's slaughter of the environment has advocates opposing clean technologies at a time when we need them the most.

 
 
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