The Unpopular Argument That the EPA is Right

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Last week, we published the story about how the EPA was laying claim to emissions regulation on production vehicles, even when they were being used privately for off-highway uses, such as racing.

This news sent a shockwave through the motorcycle and automotive communities, because this viewpoint from the EPA would drastically change not only the racing and track-enthusiasts landscape in America, but also the aftermarket sales of performance parts that are sold through the “race only” loophole.

As you can imagine, two-wheel and four-wheel enthusiasts were incensed over this revelation from the EPA, and I am sure a number of pitchforks were sharpened in the process.

So against my better judgment, I want to put forward to you an idea that I already know that many of you will disagree with out of hand: the unpopular argument that the EPA is right about all this.

To come to this conclusion, you first have to believe in two things: 1) that you believe the climate of our planet is changing, to our detriment; and 2) that you believe humans can affect that change in a meaningful way.

It helps too if you believe the world is also round, that it’s roughly 4.5 billion years old, and that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure, not gay marriage.

As motorcyclists, our default position is that since a vehicle isn’t being used on a public road way, it should therefore somehow be exempt from tailpipe emission regulations. The basic logic of this argument can be examined though with a series of questions:

When a motorcycle or car is used at a track day, without emissions controls, do the extra greenhouse gases they spew forth simply stay confined to the boundaries of that race track? Or to put it another way, do vehicles magically affect the environment differently when they are used on something other than a public road?

The underlying idea behind the regulation of emissions from motorcycles and cars is comes from the fact that they burn fossil fuels, and that the byproducts from that combustion process are harming our environment.

This inconvenient truth doesn’t change depending whether our motorcycle is just rolling down a highway or down a pit lane.

So then, why do we have this dogmatic belief that operating a motor vehicle at certain one time, place, and manner should be treated differently when compared to another? There is no logical way to reconcile that notion.

For the same reason, the major world powers have all created increasingly stringent systems and standards for regulating vehicle emissions, a nod to the fact that as a motoring populous, we can do more to reduce our footprint on society.

I don’t know too many motorcyclists who welcome the various restrictions put upon their two-wheeled fun, but at the same time I think you would be hard pressed to articulate how a catalytic converter has materially reduced your enjoyment of your motorcycle.

Our best argument for being against the tightening grip of the EPA essentially boils down to, “fuck off, I like motorcycles.”  Unfortunately, we need to do better than that.

Now, I agree with the argument that there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to overall greenhouse gas polluters, and that motorists are being targeted here simply because we are a relatively low-hanging fruit to go after.

I also agree with the notion that is rooted in basic jurisprudence, that the EPA is unilaterally telling us how we can use our personal property on private land, and how that is a true affront to some of the more basic concepts of freedom.

As someone with a legal background, this is a huge issue for me. But, as much as I disagree with the how of this situation, I don’t disagree with the why of it.

The quest by riders for more power than they know how to use has become ridiculous, and the idea that we can only have good racing if the machines are fully modified is a farce.

Think about this, the next time you get on a brand new superbike – a vehicle that produces over 200hp per liter of displacement out of the box, while still meeting modern emission standards. It’s time to start having a rational conversation about this.