Big Brother's Next Target: Your Car

Many are quite concerned about Senate Bill 1813, a massive piece of legislation supposedly devoted to transportation issues.  Besides including a provision allowing the IRS the power to revoke passports belonging to those who are delinquent with tax debt in excess of $50,000, it appears that the potential law may be used to measure the size of your carbon footprint each time you get behind the wheel.  It's all because of a vague provision slipped into bill, which has already passed the U.S. Senate and is likely to be rubber-stamped by the House.

Known as the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," SB 1813 is self-described as "[a]n Act to reauthorize Federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs, and for other purposes" (emphasis mine). 

The legislation would declare it mandatory for all new cars in the U.S. to be fitted with black box-like data recorders beginning in 2015.  Known as "Mandatory Event Data Recorders," the devices would be capable of monitoring your speed, driving habits, location, and distance traveled.  Removal of the device would be a civil offense.

Such data-collection technology is actually pretty simple.  The Progressive auto insurance company currently offers a similar app as a cost-savings feature.  Known as "Snapshot," the small device is a no-brainer to install and monitors speed, acceleration, braking habits, and miles driven, to determine the driver's level of risk, which can translate to lower insurance rates.

The text of Senate Bill 1813 never specifically states why such information needs to be collected by the government, but it does indicate that while the measurements would remain the property of the owner of the vehicle, the government would have the authority to retrieve the data in a number of circumstances, including by court order, and pursuant to an investigation or inspection conducted by the secretary of transportation.  

Currently, newer vehicles are already equipped with powertrain and airbag control modules that, in the event of a crash, are able to provide law enforcement investigators with critical information when piecing together the cause of an accident -- so why does the government need to collect additional information?

I suspect that eco-activists are behind this plan and were able to get this subsection attached to the bill, believing that, somewhere down the slippery slope, the Event Data Recorders could be used to monitor a driver's carbon footprint.

If you think my suspicions are overreaching, think again.  For years, the ultra green California legislature has been considering replacing the state's gas tax ($0.18 per gallon) with a fee for every mile traveled annually by each vehicle.  The mileage would be recorded by black boxes similar to those described in Senate Bill 1813.  California's Department of Motor Vehicles and Transportation Commission have also advocated this pay-per-mile scheme.  They've even suggested using the tracking data to financially penalize those who choose not to carpool.

And this wouldn't be the first time the feds have gotten into the carbon footprint measurement business.  As I explain in Eco-Tyranny, that's the intention of the federally mandated Smart Meter, which has likely been attached to your home in place of your old-fashioned, constantly spinning electrical meter.  Introduced in the Federal Energy Act of 2005, the Smart Meter measures your energy consumption minute-by-minute, and eventually will be connected to a device known as the Home Area Network, or "The HAN" as developers in the Silicon Valley refer to it.  The HAN will communicate with every electrical device in your home, including your Energy Star-approved appliances.  In time, the whole shebang will be hooked up to the coming Smart Grid, and your carbon footprint will be known to the second.  Eventually, a scenario like this will occur:

It's a hot afternoon in July.  Your air conditioner is keeping the house cooled to 79 degrees; you're watching the ballgame on a 50-inch flat screen TV; and you're doing a load of laundry. A blip on a computer screen alerts an unseen bureaucrat that your home is consuming far too much energy, given demands.  Automatically, your thermostat will shift to 84 degrees, the TV will be turned off until evening, and the washer/dryer won't work again until after dark.

Welcome to Smart technology. 

Senate Bill 1813 may well be the latest attempt to employ another component of Big Brother-style eco-tyranny.

Brian Sussman is the author of the new book Eco-Tyranny: How the Left's Green Agenda Will Dismantle America.  He also hosts the morning radio program at KSFO in San Francisco.

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