Just when it seems California's economy is turning around, the California Air Resources Board has found another way to cripple our fragile recovery.
This unelected agency is determined to proceed with enforcing a regulation -- the Low Carbon Fuel Standard -- that could make fuel costs skyrocket and cause severe supply shortages.
As a three-generation, family-owned trucking business, we've struggled in recent years to keep our head above water not only due to the bad economy but because of state environmental regulations, many of which are seriously flawed, unfeasible or not remotely cost-effective.
Things are picking up, but we've not yet fully recovered from the recession's effects, including a double-digit percentage drop in sales that forced us to lay off employees, cut wages for those we kept and suspend our retirement plan match.
Now we face a new challenge: the LCFS, which could add up to $1.06 to the cost of a gallon of gas, according to a Boston Consulting Group study, and more if other states adopt similar rules.
And because the LCFS mandates significantly higher use of alternative fuels and dramatically less of conventional fuels, truckers will be in a no-win situation. That's because the technology doesn't yet exist for trucks that can run on the alternative fuels that CARB demands, much less at a manageable cost. So we'll have to compete for increasingly lower supplies of diesel fuel at increasingly higher prices.
Some might say that's not a bad thing; that we should discourage the use of trucks that run on diesel fuel despite that today's diesel is almost 100 percent cleaner than the stereotypical old, smoky variety. But the reality is that when the cost of fuel and truck transportation goes up, prices for just about everything else go up too.
Trucks are the primary means of getting food from the farm to the market to your family's table, and there's no viable alternative in the foreseeable future. Trucks deliver the clothing you wear, the medicine you buy at your local pharmacy, and supplies to construct new homes and businesses. Those costs are passed along to you, for everything from hamburger to heart medication.
Here's another unintended consequence. Our shipping customers have been leaving California for more affordable business climates in alarming numbers. When businesses leave the state, they take with them their jobs and tax base. That's a trend BCG projects will continue, and that experts such as California's independent Legislative Analyst's Office have cautioned about.
We all want to do our part for the environment. That should be abundantly clear from the millions if not billions of dollars trucking companies and other industries have spent over the years to comply with California's strictest-in-the-nation air and water quality laws. But it seems CARB would rather see us leave than adjust its regulatory regime to reflect economic and technological reality.
Folks who travel California's highways may be familiar with runaway truck ramps -- emergency exits that divert out-of-control vehicles off the road before they harm motorists.
What we need is a common sense off-ramp for the out-of-control, impossible-to-meet LCFS regulation that currently threatens our state's businesses, consumers and economy. Let's put the brakes on before the wreckage happens, instead of the much harder task of trying to clean up after the fact.
Bob Ramorino is president of Roadstar Trucking in Hayward.