February 11, 2020
(20/S005) – Say you were a teenager in 1974 who wanted to borrow your dad’s car on a Friday night and had to fill the tank before heading out to a movie with friends. If you had 20 bucks in your pocket, how much was that stop for gas going to eat into your going-out cash?
Well, the national average for a gallon of gas at the time was about 53 cents, and filling your tank likely would have cost just under $8 – leaving plenty of money for a ticket to see “Blazing Saddles” (it debuted on Feb. 7, 1974, and would become the top grossing movie of the year), popcorn and even a late-night bite at the local diner.
You didn’t think twice about jumping in the car when you wanted to go out. Nor did you think much about the fumes being produced by the (likely) leaded gas that fueled your trip – but if you lived in New Jersey, some folks did.
And now, a look at 1974 …
In 1974, New Jersey began the mandatory phase of implementation of the Motor Vehicle Law of 1966 by requiring that automobiles be tested for excessive emission of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and visible smoke during the required annual vehicle inspection. The standards varied, based on the year of automobile, and were slated to become progressively more stringent over the following couple of years.
The emission testing program previously operated on a voluntary basis — starting in 1972 – as the DEP attempted to educate the public about the benefits of regular vehicle maintenance. Mandatory testing went into effect Feb. 1, 1974, despite pressure to delay the date over concerns about the potential impacts on motorists already squeezed by high fuel prices from the 1973 OPEC embargo.
By the end of Fiscal Year 1974, 150,079 (or just over 12 percent) of the 1,241,249 vehicles tested were rejected for excessive emissions. In the first five months during which repairs were mandatory, it was estimated that emission equivalency of approximately 1,500 tons per year of hydrocarbons and 13,890 tons per year of carbon monoxide were prevented from entering the atmosphere. And more than 1.89 million gallons of gasoline per year was estimated to have been saved as a result of the program, according to the DEP’s Annual Report for 1974.