A Premature Attack On Privatized Emissions


A Premature Attack On Privatized Emissions

CREATED Jul. 31, 2012

Even by the standards of the local newspaper, it's a peculiar article.

Beginning July 2nd, Wisconsin drivers who live in southeastern Wisconsin were given the ability to take their vehicle to any one of about 200 licensed dealers or repair shops for required emission testing as a condition of registration renewal.  The testing is free (although the cost is rolled into the annual registration fee).  By using multiple dealers, the DOT estimates it will save up to $600,000 per year.

Aside from cost saving, the real advantage to this new system is convenience.  Instead of driving to one of a handful of testing stations, drivers can now take their cars anywhere they choose.

So, what's the problem?

According to the local newspaper, the "fail" rate of cars during the first two plus weeks of the new program is slightly higher than under the old system.  The operative phrase of course is "during the first two plus weeks".

Last year, about 650,000 emission tests were performed.  For the past two years, the "fail" rate was approximately 6% to 7%.  In the first two weeks of the new system, about 18,600 tests were conducted and the "fail" rate was 9%.

First, one would think that people who care about the environment would applaud the fact that more polluting cars are being flagged.  That's not the spin the paper chooses to give the story however.

Second, it seems to me that two weeks is way too soon and 18,000 is way to small a sample to draw any conclusions about pass/fail rates.  Since everybody seems to acknowledge that the test can't be tampered with, my sense is that the results from the first two weeks are most likely just a statistical aberration. This is especially true given that the increased "fail" rate would still seem to be what pollsters would describe as being within the margin of error.

The other issue raised by the paper is whether some unscrupulous auto shop might try to sell some unsuspecting customer unneeded repairs.  I guess this is always a possibility.  The case might be stronger however if the paper had evidence beyond the complaint (and political spin) of a disgruntled anti-Walker guy who appears to have a direct line to the newsroom any time he wants to grind his ax.

I guess time will tell whether privatized emission testing is a good thing or a bad thing.  It's undeniable however that it's way to soon to know for sure.

In other words, don't believe everything you read in the newspaper.