As Los Angeles is seeking to outlaw the sale of gas-powered cars in 2035, city council members have taken aim at gas stations. The policy’s backers announced Thursday that they’re drafting a proposal to prevent the construction of new stations, per a release from environmental advocacy nonprofit Stand.
Straight away, it should be said that there’s no indication this is even close to happening, but it’s nevertheless worth unpacking. If Los Angeles did pass such a law, it wouldn’t be the first city in California to do so; Petaluma earned that distinction last year. Similar policies are reportedly in development in other California cities; Bethlehem, New York; and Comox Valley Regional District, British Columbia. But of course, LA is kind of a bigger deal.
Council member Paul Koretz, the policy’s author, had this to say about it, quoted from Stand’s release:
We are ending oil drilling in Los Angeles. We are moving to all-electric new construction. And we are building toward fossil fuel free transportation. Our great and influential city, which grew up around the automobile, is the perfect place to figure out how to move off the gas-powered car.
Now this might seem a little premature at first glance, but gas stations are pretty well built out, especially in LA County, which counted over 600 in 2020. At the same time, gas stations have largely declined in numbers over the last two decades, and only large corporations with more than 200 locations and convenience stores are broadening their footprint.
In other words, there doesn’t seem to be a boom in new construction that this ban would otherwise stop. The market is moving toward building out electric infrastructure anyway, and eventually charging stations will replace fueling ones — not in every case, of course, but then they don’t need to, either.
Climate-focused news magazine Grist reported on today’s news, laying out the reasons why council members are gunning to codify a new station ban now:
Proponents of the policy say that the destructive wildfires, killer heat waves, and heavy flooding that have hit the U.S. recently, fueled by climate change, are a sign that it’s time to stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. They also point out that gas stations can cause lasting health effects, releasing benzene — a known carcinogen — and contaminating the air, water, and soil. Shuttered gas stations make up half of the country’s 450,000 contaminated brownfield sites, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Drawing a line in the sand on expanding climate-crippling infrastructure that will only be disused in 15 years would seem to be a pretty sensible idea, but again — the country’s already saturated with gas stations and not really adding more, so it wouldn’t be the biggest loss if the ban didn’t pass. It would make quite the attention-grabbing headline, though!