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This week I want to talk about environmental regulations and laws. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker wants the city to pass a law prohibiting cars from idling longer than two minutes. Of course, he allows enough exemptions to make the law relatively harmless in political terms, but just the idea of such a law drives me crazy.

No person traveling from Park City down into the Salt Lake Valley during a winter inversion or on the tail end of a two-week summer high where the wind hasn’t blown once can see the cloud of haze that they’re driving into. In the mountains, above the haze, it’s bright sunshine; in the valley, beneath the haze, it’s depressing.

It’s that annual experience, by and large, that gives radical environmentalists ideas like Mayor Becker’s to pass a law prohibiting cars from idling more than two minutes. Beyond the impossibility of implementing such an intrusive law without vastly increasing the police state in the city, step back for a second and think about the idea itself. Why would any sane decision-maker think of such a law?

The short answer is that radical environmentalists are irrational; they think through fear and superstition. They see the haze over the valley and know, without any scientific basis, that two weeks of winter haze will surely kill us all and that reducing human mobility by punishing drivers will surely save us all. They’re so irrational, so fearful about their own lives, that every particulate (whether natural or man-made) is a threat to the planet.

I understand that intelligent and honest scientists will attest that air pollution kills people. Frankly, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that high doses of pollution in an isolated setting can do harm. But that obviousness is part of the radical environmentalist’s scam – they think if a two-year old can see something like an inversion or summer haze, the observation alone is proof of the threat. And this is what I mean by superstition – it’s as if they’ve seen an eclipse for the first time and become so terrified that they begin human sacrifices as a way to appease the gods.

But real scientists know that there’s a difference between observation and causation.

And now we see signs on our highways reading: “Poor Air Quality. Drive Less.” Really? Me driving less is going to save the planet? That is simply an irrational thought. In that light I have a suggestion: Mayor Becker, everyone in his administration, anyone who fears nature, anyone who thinks global warming is real – all of you – sell your cars, every last one of them, and set a proper example for all of us. Until then, mind your own business.

Presidential aspirant Jon Huntsman, bless his heart, is arguing that conservation is conservative. Actually, that’s true – as true as anything Huntsman has ever said. The problem with his statement is that it’s misleading, if not disingenuous. Environmentalists like Huntsman don’t mean “conservation” when they use the word; they mean “preservation.” Al Gore and every other radical environmentalist are preservationists. They want Utah’s lands locked up. They don’t really believe in multi-use land planning. They believe in single-use land planning – meaning the land is only to be used by animals and whatever the wind happens to move around naturally – oh yeah, and their granola friends who get to make a living offering eco-tours of those precious, unsullied lands.

Folks, whether it’s Mayor Becker wanting to pass a crazy law about idling cars or Al Gore wanting to shut down progress and prosperity due to the imaginary threat of global warming, every radical environmentalist has one thing in common: They’re irrational. And to put political power in the hands of irrational people is about the worst thing citizens in a free society could ever do.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero.

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