California announced Wednesday that it would ban the sale of anything but zero-emissions cars come 2035. Certainly, that’s more than I, personally, have done to cut down greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s far from a radical move.
Let me begin with the timeframe. 2035? This is a joke. California will not exist in 2035, at least a California that has not been entirely burned to the ground. Telling a Californian in 2035 that they can’t buy a new Silverado will be funny to them, as they survey the still-smoldering ruins of what used to be their suburban development. Any thought of preserving “air quality” by stopping people from buying Duramaxes or whatever will be a bit of a moot point when ash is constantly raining from the sky everywhere south of Garberville. Hell, in Garberville, too.
The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California’s carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog-forming pollution and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions – all while communities in the Los Angeles Basin and Central Valley see some of the dirtiest and most toxic air in the country.
Following the order, the California Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emission by 2035 – a target which would achieve more than a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide. In addition, the Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that all operations of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles shall be 100 percent zero emission by 2045 where feasible, with the mandate going into effect by 2035 for drayage trucks. To ensure needed infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles, the order requires state agencies, in partnership with the private sector, to accelerate deployment of affordable fueling and charging options. It also requires support of new and used zero-emission vehicle markets to provide broad accessibility to zero-emission vehicles for all Californians. The executive order will not prevent Californians from owning gasoline-powered cars or selling them on the used car market.
As you will note, there is nothing in there that bans anyone from driving a smog-choked 1975 Toyota Celica. All it bans is Folsom Lake Ford from letting them trade it in on a new Raptor. Hell, I’m sure Joe Flatbrim could find the time to drive over to Vegas or Reno or Medford to buy whatever full-size pickup he desires. If he is going for a heavy-duty vehicle, he’s still got an extra ten years, and even then there’s nothing stopping him from going on Craigslist to buy a coal-rolling dozer from someone else.
That’s the other problem with the announcement. There’s nothing about it that couldn’t—or shouldn’t—be implemented tomorrow. If clean air is the goal, that’s all the more reason to act sooner rather than later. Getting EVs or ZEVs on a lot in California isn’t impossible even with the current offerings from major manufacturers. Well, I imagine Maserati dealers might have to find some alternate lines of work, but that’s not the greatest injustice.
I shouldn’t freely shit on this measure from California—again, it’s something—but even the state knows it’s weak. From Governor Newsom’s office:
By the time the new rule goes into effect, zero-emission vehicles will almost certainly be cheaper and better than the traditional fossil fuel powered cars. The upfront cost of electric vehicles are projected to reach parity with conventional vehicles in just a matter of years, and the cost of owning the car – both in maintenance and how much it costs to power the car mile for mile – is far less than a fossil fuel burning vehicle.
This is also bullshit. There are plenty of desirable, affordable EVs in production today. They’re just not sold in America. Were Newsom to hit dealers with a ban like this tomorrow, I assure you Honda would think much more seriously about bringing the wonderful Honda E over here. It was in the cards a few years ago anyway. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think the same of other non-US EVs like the VW ID.3. (That one needs all the help it can get.)
It’s abundantly clear that a 2035 mandate isn’t pushing much of a boundary for anyone involved, be it the manufacturers, the consumers, or the regulators. Shift 2035 to 2021 and I’ll be impressed.