We usually favor any effort that would reduce fuel consumption and thus lower our nation's dependence on oil.
But a proposed California state bill that's rapidly making its way through the legislative process is the wrong way to go about it.
Introduced by California As-semblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, the bill would direct the state to develop a program requiring replacement passenger and light truck tires be as energy efficient, on average, as original equipment tires.
The motive behind Assembly Bill 844 is noble enough. According to Mr. Nation's office, requiring low rolling resistance replacement tires in California would save an estimated 300 million gallons of fuel annually.
The question is, at what cost? Assuming Mr. Nation's estimated fuel savings is correct-and some including the Rubber Manufacturers Association question that as high-requiring tire makers to supply only energy-efficient replacement tires would have a number of negative effects on the tire industry and also be a nightmare to enforce.
For one, if would force tire makers to produce many, if not all, of their replacement tires to the California standard simply because of the difficulty and expense they would have in trying to identify which tires to earmark for the state.
This also would put California tire dealers at a disadvantage with out-of-state competitors by limiting the range of tires they could sell.
Lowering rolling resistance also can mean a tradeoff in tire performance, including reduced treadwear and traction, according to the tire industry.
So, while energy-efficient tires would save fuel, they also might wear out quicker. The RMA estimates this would create 10-20 percent more scrap tires in California alone. In effect, this move would end up trading one environmental problem for another.
Shifting to more energy-efficient tires also would mean higher tire prices. Mr. Nation's office estimated a set of four low- rolling-resistance tires likely would cost consumers an extra $5 to $12, while reducing fuel consumption by 1.5 to 5 percent.
If California is serious about reducing fuel consumption, there's a more practical way than trying to legislate the use of energy-efficient replacement tires: Mount a campaign urging drivers to check and maintain their tire pressures regularly.
Statistics show that 27 percent, or 56 million tires in the U.S., are underinflated and that every pound per square inch of underinflation wastes 4 million gallons of gasoline daily.
Getting more people to take care of their tires would create the fuel savings Mr. Nation is seeking without the negative consequences.
We urge California tire dealers to oppose the bill.