More dense than smog

May 1, 2003 By    

Remember the recent electricity shortages that crippled the state of California? You’d think those folks would have learned something about resource over-management after a crisis of that magnitude, right? Guess again.

The state’s infamous Air Resources Board has hatched yet another brilliant idea in the name of improving air quality. CARB wants to permit only electric forklifts to be sold or leased throughout the state. The rule would be limited to forklifts of 8,000 pounds or less purchased after Jan. 1, 2005.

How big a gash would this proposal be for the propane industry? Here is a tally by the Propane Vehicle Council:

Over the last five years, more than 32,300 of these propane forklifts have been sold in California alone. Each forklift consumes an average of 750 gallons of propane annually; that’s more than 24 million gallons of fuel just for the new forklifts over five years.

Figure $1 per gallon and you begin to understand the magnitude of this scheme on our industry.

Think it can’t happen? Not too many years ago CARB proposed the same ban on all non-electric golf carts in California. Unchallenged, that blatantly unfair proposal is state law today.

And if the forklift mandate becomes law in California, you can bet the power giants will quickly help get it passed elsewhere.

CARB is clearly overstepping its charge to improve air quality by mandating the use of one type of technology. If improved fuel quality and engine maintenance can likewise help clean the air, why preclude those options with a law that eliminates fair competition?

Tailpipe emissions tell only part of the story when measuring environmental impact. As propane industry officials have been arguing for years, claims that electric trucks are cleaner ignore the pollution created to generate the electricity. Besides, the plan would add even more burden to the over-taxed California power grid, aggravating the problems of outages and power price spikes.

Batteries also could become a huge issue. Industrial truck officials say each forklift would need three batteries to maintain the around-the-clock service that a propane engine provides. Storing batteries for a fleet of trucks takes up lots of precious warehouse space. With life expectancies of just one year, you’ve also created a major disposal problem.

Forklift manufacturers are equally outraged by the measure. Just what are they supposed to do with hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory that they no longer can sell or rent? Already, some companies have promised to move operations out of California in protest.

California has a storied history of wackiness. Half-baked ideas such as this do nothing to dispel that notion.

Comments are currently closed.