Newsom calls for California ban on new gas-fueled cars by 2035

  • Sep 25, 2020
  • EcoWatch

"This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change," Newsom said in a statement.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling for California to ban new gasoline-fueled vehicles within 15 years in a bid to combat climate change and make the state the first in the nation to stop sales of cars with internal combustion engines.

The Democratic governor on Wednesday signed an executive order that directs the California Air Resources Board to establish regulations requiring that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California in 2035 be zero-emission vehicles.

California has long been a leader on fuel economy, forcing automakers to build more efficient vehicles than required by federal standards. The Golden State is the world's fifth-largest economy, with more than half of its emissions stemming from the transportation sector, so the move is expected to significantly help reduce tailpipe pollution from vehicles with internal combustion engines.

The move comes as California experiences historic wildfires that have consumed more than 3.6 million acres this year already. Newsom has repeatedly emphasized the role of climate change in driving the fires, while Republicans have focused on a need to better manage forests in the state.

"We are marking a new course," Newsom said in a press conference in front of electric vehicles at the state fairgrounds in Sacramento. "We are setting a new marker. We're advancing the cause, with the support of the California Air Resources Board, to once again lead not only this nation but in many respects lead the world."

The ban on gas-powered vehicles is likely to face opposition from automakers and Republican leaders in Washington, who have already battled the state over its stricter fuel economy rules. The Trump administration is fighting the state in court over whether it can set stricter emissions standards than the nation as a whole.

California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley said in an interview that the "radical step" to ban internal combustion engines "makes no sense" and is a rushed decision, with no guarantee of affordability for many who live in an already-expensive state.

Edison International CEO Pedro Pizarro said that his electric utility wants more to be done on economy-wide electrification, saying that the state's recent approval of Edison's proposed 38,000 charge ports is just a "drop in the bucket" for what's needed to reduce emissions.

While environmentalists embraced his call to ban gas-powered vehicles, some questioned Tuesday why he wasn't doing more to stop fracking.

Newsom announced he was asking state lawmakers to implement a fracking ban by 2024, but stopped well short of directing his own oil and gas regulators to stop approving fracking permits. Environmentalists have increased their criticism of Newsom on fracking in recent days, especially as the governor has emphasized California's role in fighting climate change.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, called it "rhetoric rather than real action."

“Newsom can’t claim climate leadership while handing out permits to oil companies to drill and frack," she said in a statement. "He has the power to protect Californians from oil industry pollution, and he needs to use it, not pass the buck.”

Newsom responded Wednesday that he doesn't have that authority, but did not elaborate.

The California Air Resources Board will be tasked with writing the vehicle rules, which the Newsom administration estimates would slash greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. Other agencies will be directed to support the development of zero-emission vehicle charging stations, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks will be mandated to be zero-emission by 2045 where feasible.

That goal will be 2035 for trucks conveying ship containers at ports, an important checkpoint because the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are the busiest in the country.

Residents would still be able to own gas-fueled vehicles and sell them on the used market, but the governor's executive order is sure to give rise to questions surrounding the logistics and equity of the transition from internal combustion engines in car-dependent California. The state would join 15 other countries that are already phasing out gas-fueled vehicles.

CARB Chair Mary Nichols said Wednesday that California wants to phase out hybrid vehicles over the next 15 years and have Californians purchase fully electric cars.

"We're not taking anything away," Newsom said, emphasizing that used gas vehicles can still be sold in California after 2035. "We're providing an abundance of new choices and new technology."

California last year reached a vehicle emissions agreement with five automakers, a response to the Trump administration's rollback of tailpipe standards, splitting manufacturers between those aligned with the Golden State and the White House. Newsom's move Wednesday could shake up the auto market once again, but some companies have already signaled a desire to transition more toward zero-emission.

Newsom directed agencies to develop a zero-emission vehicle market development strategy by the end of January and update it every three years. He also asked them to accelerate existing efforts on charge ports.

The governor's order also called for agencies to craft "an integrated, statewide rail and transit network," a pronouncement that came over a year after Newsom shrunk the scope of the state's high speed rail project. He also outlined plans to support more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, especially in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

While Newsom did not order an end to fracking permits, he asked agencies to accelerate their existing work on repurposing extraction facilities during the climate transition, with a report on necessary changes due in July 2021. That month will also see another report on what it will take to "manage and expedite" the closure and cleanup of old wells.

He directed the California Geologic Energy Management Division to "strictly enforce" operators' insurance requirements known as bonding tied to their facilities, in addition to proposing by the end of 2020 a rule that "protects communities and workers from the impacts of oil extraction activities."

And CARB will strategize on how to reduce the intensity of fossil fuels beyond 2020, which Newsom emphasized will include "consideration of the full life cycle of carbon" — suggesting that carbon capture and sequestration will see greater deployment throughout the state.

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