COMMON SENSE ON AIR QUALITY….I have to give some props to Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s true that his budget proposal wasn’t much different from anything Gray Davis had proposed before him, and it’s true that reducing the vehicle license fee has made our budget mess far worse than before he took office, and it’s true that his recent workers comp bill was a lot more limited than you’d think based on the victory laps he took when he announced it…..

Wait a second ? I said props, right? Well, look, he seems to be working pretty well with the legislature, he hasn’t been caving in to the wingnut faction of his own party, and the fact that he compromised on workers comp means that at least something got passed.

Today, though, he got even better. This is a genuinely important proposal ? and a personal hobbyhorse of mine:

The Schwarzenegger administration, working with business groups, legislators and environmentalists, is promoting an ambitious anti-smog initiative to eliminate the largest contributors to dirty air in California ? heavy-polluting, older model cars, trucks, buses and farm vehicles.

….Roughly 5% of the state’s cars and heavy-duty buses and trucks, typically older models, are responsible for half of the air pollution from motor vehicles, the leading cause of the state’s chronically dirty air, according to air quality officials. The initiative would seek to remove those vehicles from California’s roads by offering their owners financial incentives to junk them.

This is hardly breaking news: the fact that old cars and trucks (and “old” typically means 20-30 years old in this case) are responsible for a third or more of total air pollution has been common knowledge for a long time. But nobody, including Gray Davis back when California was awash in dotcom cash, has managed to get agreement on a common-sense proposal to get rid of these clunkers. In the meantime, we’ve banned charcoal grills and various types of housepaint.

This should have been done a long time ago. Just ban the damn things and give their owners five years to get them off the road. The few billion dollars it will cost the state to buy them and scrap them is almost certainly tiny compared to the cost of a whole slew of other measures we’ve adopted that have far less effect on air quality.

So like I said: props to Arnold if he can make this happen. It’s about damn time somebody did.