When America went into a deep freeze over the last week or so, the Nanny State was there to ensure we all got through it.

No, I’m not aware of governments handing out blankets or removing its taxes on heating fuel as many Americans experienced temperatures unlike any they had ever seen in their lives.

Instead, Americans across the country – from Texas to Minnesota to the East Coast – learned they were lawbreakers because they chose to warm up their cars before driving to work in sub-zero weather.

Who knew a number of states and municipalities have laws against “puffing”? I suspect most people have never even heard the term before. It has to do with the exhaust fumes that pour out the back of vehicles, particularly on a very cold day.

Why is it government’s business whether people warm up their cars before taking a drive?

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Depending on who you ask, there are a number of reasons for the laws:

  • Warming up your car when the driver is in his or her warm house invites car thieves. The way some police and government officials talk about it, you might think such drivers were accessories to grand theft auto. You might think their real motive was to instigate car theft crimes. How would you like to be the victim of a car theft and be fined for the government for inducing the crime?
  • The fines imposed on motorists for these crimes bring in some additional revenue to state and local governments.
  • But my favorite reason for government meddling in the way you warm up your car comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, which insists it’s an inefficient use of fuel and contributes to global warming. Of course, many of us skeptics of the kind of man-made, catastrophic climate change the EPA and other government agencies have been pushing were wishing we were wrong about global warming last week. No such luck.

But don’t many new cars have auto-start technology for the purpose of making your auto comfortable when you get in?

Yes, but many of the laws against “puffing” pre-date this technology. Others make exception for it. Still others claim this keyless technology can still get your car stolen. Be sure to check your local regulations before starting your car this winter.

Some of the fines reach up to $500, including in Texas where “puffing” is a Class C misdemeanor. So much for liberty in the Lone Star State.

For the record, no anti-“puffing” laws exist in Alaska where motorists frequently leave their cars running while they visit stores. Some even leave them running while they work.

Isn’t government helpful?

What would we do without such laws?

Rather than severely punishing car thieves, governments are increasingly punishing victims who are just trying to keep warm.

I don’t know about you, but if I see a car running without a driver in it, I am no more tempted to steal it than I would be if it were locked inside a garage.

Apparently that’s not the way government looks at it.

Government acts like victims make crimes irresistible.

What’s next?

Will purchasing certain kinds of cars be discouraged by government because they are more attractive to steal?

Or maybe this really has nothing to do with grand theft auto. Maybe it is about more revenue for government, or maybe it’s about perpetuating the fraud of global warming.

Who knows?

All I know is that it’s cold outside.

My windows are all iced up and no amount of scraping is going to do any good when it’s 6 degrees.

I broke all my heavy duty scrapers last week. The only thing that worked was a defroster blowing full blast.

Do I really need to have one eye out for the police when I warm up my car in the morning?

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