Environmental regulation of automobiles faces the problem that the burden of causing air pollution cannot be borne solely by the manufacturer, the owner, or the driver. This paper explores the implications that this constraint has had on the regulatory modes adopted by the state of California to curb automobile pollution for the past three decades. It argues that California’s experience provides us with a particularly stark view of the regulatory conundrum because of the dual nature of the stakes: a highly automobilized society having severe local air pollution problems. Moreover, by creating for itself the global reputation of being the intrepid pioneer in the field, the state’s leading regulatory agency may have become victim of its own remarkable success and gotten locked into a particular pattern of regulation.
Originally published in J. D. Wufhorst and Anne Haugestad, eds., Building Sustainable Communities: Ecological Justice and Global Citizenship (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), 1-9.