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Gale Banks Takes On Sacramento

Posted in News on September 1, 2010
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If you're the type who enjoys hedging up the way and preventing progress, you'd be foolish to stand in the way of Gale Banks. You'll be rudely awakened.

A dragster that runs 200-plus mph on everyday diesel fuel? Believe it. From left, Gale Banks, Senator Bob Huff, and Huff staff member Tim Shaw check out the speed equipment at Gale Banks Engineering.

A few years ago, Banks sought an Executive Order (EO) approval number from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for a new performance part he'd come up with. The reply from CARB was, "No approval given because this part has to pass a test." Banks replied, "No problem, go ahead and test it." CARB came back saying "We don't have a test in place." Like so many other instances, inefficient government put a private citizen between a rock and a hard place.

Gale Banks is far from your everyday John Q. Public. Instead of wringing his hands and doing nothing, he paid a visit to Sacramento, meeting with California State Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) to see what could be done to create a test appropriate for the performance part he'd created. It took a long time (and by this we mean years) but finally CARB agreed to some test parameters and Banks had the EO number he'd sought. The new test parameters also cleared the way for other firms to submit their part to CARB for approval. This benefitted the performance parts industry as a whole.

Gale Banks (left) shows California Senator Bob Huff around the engine dyno room at Gale Banks Engineering. Huff is a long-time automotive enthusiast himself.

What's the big deal with obtaining an EO number in California? It means that you can sell your parts in California for use on pollution-controlled motor vehicles. Since other states often follow California's lead, having an EO number for California gives you a green light to sell that product in other states

This back story brings us to May 13, when Banks and Huff met at the Banks Engineering campus in Azusa, California, for a tour and press conference. The day's topic: a piece of far-reaching California legislation known as AB-32.

AB-32 is the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. It mandates that by the year 2020, we in California need to have our greenhouse gas emissions reduced to the levels of 1990. The specific gasses listed as greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluroide. Diesel exhaust contains carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Senator Bob Huff commented, "Growing up, I was always into cars. We looked at diesel as 'the dirty boy on the block.' The thinking of the time was that there was no way to make a diesel run clean. Diesel has come of age."

The timeline for AB-32 was set by politicians who were influenced by zealots. Banks commented, "There's political and there's practical. I deal in the practical. The zealots don't know what's practical to achieve, but they have their dream. I have their dream, too, but the difference is that I understand the practical aspects of how that dream will be achieved."

Senator Huff also talked about the political/practical juxtaposition. "Government can set the goals," Huff said. "When the goals are set, government should turn to business to show us how to get there."

Business can help government achieve new goals and standard the same way business has shaped and improved all our lives over the years: by ingenuity and innovation. AB-32 reaches further than the automotive industry. Other businesses such as dry cleaners are also affected because of the chemicals, solvents, and processes they use.

"AB-32 couldn't have come at a worse time," Banks said. "We were already suffering with the economic downturn. These new regulations on top of that make it much worse. Many firms have left the state. I've had to let over 70 employees go, and I would love to be able to hire them back. I sincerely hope they're doing OK. These new regulations mean we have to spend extra money and time making sure we comply. That cuts into profits, and it means we can't employ as many people. These regulators bog me down."

The goal of Banks and Huff is not to get rid of AB-32. Rather, it is to bring about a timeline in Sacramento that reflects the speed of practicality and business instead of the wishful timeline created by politicans and zealots. Talking about reducing diesel emissions, Huff said "Cleaning up particulates is easy. Cleaning up particulates AND reducing greenhouse gas emissions is tougher. AB-32 passed into law in 2006. Now we're working on the implementation phase. One thing we've been able to do so far is get AB-32 standard relaxed for off-road vehicles (meaning heavy equipment) so that they would have time to figure out a way to comply rather than just shut down."

I left the press conference feeling optomistic that AB-32 can be implemented in a way that makes sense for both the environment and the economy. Not every politician in Sacramento is a zealot living in a dream world, and not every business is rolling over and quitting or leaving the Golden State. That's great news for all of us.

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