California by the Numbers

California license plate numbers follow a pattern of number-letter-letter-letter-number-number-number, but the state is running out of possible combinations.

The Contra Costa Times asked readers for suggestions.  A few wise-guys responded:

“The obvious, quintessentially California answer is this: Once we get to plate number 9ZZZ999, the state will simply declare that there can be no more cars registered in the state. A cap, if you will. This will be explained as a necessary measure to preserve air quality and reduce our energy usage. The only way you’ll be able to buy and register a new car is to take an old one off the road.”

“I agree that this will probably happen, replied another,  with one small variation. When the state institutes the cap, the only way to register a different car will be to find someone to swap cars with you: cap and trade.

Still a third said: “Rebellious citizens will quickly set up a black market where you can buy new cars, incandescent light bulbs and (for San Franciscans) Happy Meals, which will soon replace crack and other controlled substances.”

I think a reverse auction might work where new car owners bid on the license plate numbers of older cars.  Think of it like buying a renewable energy credit.  When the price is higher than the residual value of the old clunker someone will raise their hand and take the deal.  The state will keep half for the politicians to spend flagrantly on essential purchases.  You know, like the $258,000 the state motor pool just spent to buy the newly elected state legislators new cars—more than half of which were gas guzzling SUVs.

But there is hope for California.

Governor Jerry Brown told 48,000 state employees to cancel their cell phones saying that when he was last governor we didn’t even have cell phones and things worked better.  Besides, he said, he did not understand why 40% of the state employees or 96,000 of them needed state paid cell phones.


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