Actor Tom Cruise cannot be taken seriously after jumping on Oprah Winfrey's couch and making a fool of himself.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is doing the same for his state's legitimacy as a world leader in emissions regulation. His undoing is not a couch, but a frivolous new lawsuit against the six largest U.S. auto makers that even his home state's Los Angeles Times calls “kooky.”

Lockyer, a Democrat running for state treasurer, contends that vehicle emissions, even legal emissions, are an illegal public nuisance that are partly responsible for California wildfires, flooding and a host of other maladies — even poor skiing conditions. His lawsuit seeks monetary damages from auto makers to address these alleged harms.

The basis of the suit goes like this: Global warming is linked to problems that are costing California billions. Cars and trucks emit carbon dioxide, which is a global-warming gas. General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan sell most of the vehicles in California, so they now have to pay restitution for the havoc their tailpipe exhaust is wreaking on the state.

Major global auto makers such as Volkswagen, BMW, PSA and Fiat are not mentioned in the lawsuit. Neither are coal-fired powerplants in China.

Apparently because all politics is local, in Lockyer's world, the earth's atmosphere is local, too.

Already there are calls in Detroit and elsewhere to give Lockyer a taste of his own medicine. Some suggest the attorneys general of the 25 states poisoned by tainted spinach sue California farmers, or sue the major movie studios for contributing to the culture of violence plaguing American cities.

Certainly most Americans would join a class-action suit to get their money back for “Gigli.”

But when we're through with all the silliness, a real problem remains: For almost four decades California has earned the grudging respect of the global auto industry by using its status as the U.S.' largest single vehicle market to force new emissions technology with the most stringent regulations technically possible.

California now is squandering that respect by furthering the notion in the auto industry that it no longer is interested in using science to set rigorous standards for clean air and is instead simply pursuing an extreme political agenda.

If the frivolous lawsuits continue, auto makers will give up trying to meet emissions with technical innovation and will respond solely through legal channels. They will argue California's regulations no longer are rational, let alone achievable.