This Labor Day, people all over the country will be savoring the last days of summer with ice cream. But some New York City politicians want to eliminate even that small sweet treat. What does New York have against ice cream?
Already home to crazy ice cream rules that prohibit folks from enjoying the summertime treat while waiting at a bus stop or that make carrying your ice cream cone in your pocket on Sundays illegal, now some city politicians want to essentially take away ice cream trucks.
Specifically, City Council Member Lincoln Restler and eight of his colleagues recently introduced a bill to ban the use of gasoline or diesel generators on ice cream trucks. According to Restler, the move would “severely reduce air pollution and noise and address the climate crisis.”
This is absolute nonsense.
Let’s take a look why. We will start with noise.
Ice cream trucks require generators to keep the ice cream cold, and generators can, admittedly, be noisy. However, modern gas and diesel generators exist on a spectrum of noise, and many fall well within what any reasonable person would conclude is acceptable. Some inverter generators already can be as quiet as a private office. Further, generators can be combined with dampeners to reduce noise even further.
If this were really the issue, then the City Council could simply put reasonable noise restrictions in place rather than total bans. This is precisely what they’ve done with ice cream truck bells by restricting their use to trucks in motion.
That leaves the environmental question. For this, we need to separate out traditional air pollutants and alleged global warming effects.
Critics of ice cream truck generators make the same mistake as critics of coal and other hydrocarbons by conflating the pollution from old and new technology. It may well have been the case that old generators, especially in densely populated areas such as New York City, emitted unacceptable levels of pollution. However, advances in fuel efficiency and emissions treatment technology significantly reduce emissions, and the technology is only getting cleaner.
So, that leaves climate change.
Putting aside the real debate over the human effect on climate, and accepting for the purposes of this discussion Washington’s underlying climate policy assumptions, banning generators from New York City ice cream trucks would make no measurable difference to the climate. In fact, eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States would have virtually no environmental benefit.
The Heritage Foundation’s chief statistician, Kevin Dayaratna, has investigated exactly this using the same models used by government agencies. a href="https://www.heritage.org/energy-economics/report/the-unsustainable-costs-president-bidens-climate-agenda">He found that eliminating all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would reduce temperatures by less than 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. (The Daily Signal is the news and commentary outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
The facts, of course, don’t matter to environmental extremists who dislike ice cream trucks. They are more than happy to push their agenda on us no matter the cost or lack of efficacy. Instead, they make empty promises about seamless, low-cost alternatives and how everyone will be better off if we just comply.
Obviously, compliance has real costs. While some estimates come in below $10,000 per truck to comply, real world costs could be much higher. According to one ice cream truck company CEO, upgrading a single truck can cost upwards of $65,000. So, does Mr. Restler expect every mom and pop ice cream vendor and small ice cream truck business to just lay down more money per truck than what a decent used ice cream truck costs to keep operating in New York City?
With average annual incomes of around $30,000 for mom and pop ice cream trucks in the United States, even the expense of the lower $10,000 estimate could be enough put them out of business.
This is out of the question and is why everyone should understand this legislation as a virtual ban on ice cream trucks.
At a minimum, there will be far fewer ice cream trucks serving New York citizens, and those trucks will be owned by a small number of large companies that can afford the compliance costs. That assumes that larger companies think they can even make such a substantial investment back in sales. Finally, the fewer trucks and higher operation costs will mean much more expensive ice cream.
Like nearly every other mandate, this one will hurt the poor the most, drive companies out of business and take away the jobs of those who work for them, and serve only the egos of wealthy do-gooders and busy-body politicians.
But if that’s what New York City wants, why should we care?
Because like the canary in the mine shaft, seemingly crazy policies that take hold in local jurisdictions often portend what’s coming for the rest of us. Revealingly, Restler tells us as much when he says that he’s “excited to see how they can serve as a model for electrifying mobile food truck vendors.”
In other words, environmentalists won’t stop at ice cream trucks in New York this Labor Day. Rest assured, environmental extremism will be coming for your ice cream trucks in your neighborhood next Labor Day, and that’s why this proposal needs to be stopped now.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal on September 1, 2023