SMOKING cars vs. air quality

Wednesday, August 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Every summer we wrestle with air quality problems. One of the main contributors to the problem is automobile emissions. New on Six's Rick Wells says despite what we know about car emissions we have no inspection to identify problem vehicles.

Remember Uncle Buck's smoking old Mercury from the movie? There are lots of those smoking cars on our streets and highways, and according to Nancy Graham, the Air Quality Program Manager for INCOG there's no way to get rid of them. "There is no federal, or state, or local or city regulation that would allow a policeman to stop a smoking car." That's not to say there may not be someday, but not now.

Every summer we flirt with non-attainment, or risk landing on the so-called dirty air list because of poor air quality. One thing we might do to help clean the air, she says, is institute some sort of vehicle emission inspection. "About 20% of the cars cause about 80% of the problems from cars."

Oklahoma had an annual vehicle inspection, it required a check of 28 elements on each vehicle, and among those were a few emission items. Local Firestone store manager, Billy Conatzer, "you looked underneath the car to make sure it had a catalytic converter, make sure it had a muffler, and no holes in the exhaust." But he says it was only a visual check to see if it was there not if any of it was working. The state eliminated those checks earlier this year.

The air quality folks say that as we catalog the elements that contribute to poor air quality, remedies would be developed to deal with each, things like a vehicle emissions inspection. Other states have them and they are expensive to get, anywhere from 15 to 30 dollars and expensive to perform. Machines sometimes cost several thousand dollars. In the meantime there's the smoking vehicle hotline. Graham, "744-SMOG, you and I can call 744-SMOG."

We can report smoking car license numbers; the owner gets a letter suggesting the problem be fixed, its purely voluntary.