It Might Be Time to Rethink How We Do Emissions Testing

This sounds cool. Max Ehrenfreund writes today about Gary Bishop, a research engineer at the University of Denver, who has been working on real-life emissions testing for cars:

Bishop’s laboratory has developed a roadside sensor, which he and his colleagues have been using for more than a decade to see how cars actually do on the street in several major cities….Authorities are now using the sensors in and around Denver and in a few other states as a supplement to conventional testing. The state sets up the sensors at highway on-ramps and elsewhere along the road. Drivers don’t stop. They just roll between two rows of cones while a camera records the car’s license plate and the equipment registers the emissions from the tailpipe, and go on their way. If a car produces at least two passing grades, the driver is spared the trip to the inspection station.

How about that. Can we get this in California, please? Of course, there’s also this:

One of the cities where Bishop has worked is Tulsa, Okla., where emissions tests have never been required. The group has found that emissions from the cars in Tulsa are no worse than emissions in other cities where standards are enforced.

That’s true. In a 2007 paper, Bishop concluded that emissions reductions have been about the same everywhere he’s tested, regardless of whether periodic inspections are required. So maybe we need to ditch the big-government regulations that mandate the inspection regime altogether. Instead we could rely on spot checks of real-world emissions as a way of holding auto manufacturers accountable for complying with EPA standards, which suddenly seems like it might be the real problem after all. Let’s get Jeb Bush on this.