By now you’ve likely heard the news, first announced and confirmed on September 23, 2020, that California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has said he will be getting tougher on gasoline-powered cars. His latest executive order states that “by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles.” In doing so, he joins around 20 countries and regions across the world who have either announced or are preparing to announce similar measures.
Bold, but Not Universally Approved
Governor Newsom’s proposals are actually fairly conservative compared to countries like Norway, which has pledged to remove diesel and gasoline cars by 2025, and Belgium by 2026. On the surface it sounds like a drastic, unworkable, even crazy plan. President Trump and his EPA have already moved to criticize the policy, saying it’s unfair to automakers and would strain the already overtaxed electrical grid. Trump certainly isn’t the only objector, with some in rural communities worried about current technology not being enough to serve their needs for both distance and vehicle scope.
Radical? Yes. Insane? No
In this two-part article, we will be making the case for Governor Newsom’s plan, explaining why it will be a good thing for California. In this first piece, we will answer the following questions and topics about the policy move:
- Why this policy is a good investment for the future
- What will the positive environmental impacts be?
- How will it impact car manufacturers?
- Why California will not face an “auto exodus”
Why This Policy is a Good Investment for the Future
We’ve known for some time that supplies of fossil fuels are finite. It’s not news. According to information on ecotricity.co.uk we are consuming some 4 billion tons of oil every year, which if continued might deplete known reserves by 2070 or thereabouts.
California is also facing another critical dollar number in 2020 – $1.808 billion. What is this? It’s the estimated cost of the devastating wildfires that have ravaged the state in 2020. With climate change being so linked to the increasing frequency and scope of wildfires in California, and fossil-fuel consumption linked so strongly to climate change, what other choice does the Governor have but to take more drastic action?
Investing in no-emission transport infrastructure now will be a great boon for California. Currently, transportation accounts for more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. That could be drastically reduced, which will hopefully bring further savings as positive effects like better public health, reduced impact from climate change and other impacts set in.
What Will the Positive Environmental Impacts Be?
If you’ve been to, lived in or currently live in California, specifically in Los Angeles and the Central Valley areas, have you ever looked out of your window to a disappointing scene of discoloring smog? If so, it shouldn’t be surprising. As it stands, 80 percent of that smog-forming pollution is created by the transportation sector; from the sedan on your driveway to the trucks shipping out the state’s manufactured goods.
The most obvious positive impact on the environment will be a potential 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and an 80-percent improvement in nitrogen oxide emissions from cars across California. Cleaner air could finally take hold across the LA and Central Valley, easing suffering (and possibly preventing new cases) of asthma and other respiratory disorders that plague the old and young alike.
As we touched on above, another positive impact could be a reduction in the frequency and severity of wildfires in California. These fires don’t just cost money and property, but also a further poisoning of the air with thick smoke, and the wanton destruction of animal habitats and the state’s natural forest heritage. Any action taken to help reduce those impacts should be welcomed and embraced.
How Will it Impact Car Manufacturers?
There is genuine and valid concern over how car manufacturers will adjust to such a sudden change. Fifteen years sounds like a long time, but for giant companies like Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Mazda — all of whom have operations in California — it’s a blink of an eye.
There is great concern that auto companies will simply flee from California, seeking refuge in states where gasoline-powered cars are still welcome and will be for many years to come. We’ll address this more in our next main point.
It should be made clear that the biggest change is that new gasoline cars will not be able to be sold. The law doesn’t make it illegal for anyone to operate on in the state, nor does it prevent owners from selling their second-hand cars to interested buyers. When we get to 2035, if you’re still going to be interested in gas car, then the second-hand market will be where it’s at.
Why California Will Not Face an “Auto Exodus”
Car companies will have to make a big move to electric versions of their existing line, and convert all future plans to electric models. It sounds like a big undertaking, but the fact is that many car companies are already doing this. Even GMC, creators of the infamous gas-guzzling Hummer, are unveiling their new all-electric Hummer on October 20, 2020. If Hummer can go electric, then so too can all the other brands.
The Californian auto market is extremely valuable. There are more than 15 million registered automobiles on the state’s roads, dwarfing nearest large-state rival, Texas, which has 8.2
million. Put yourself in the place of automakers – is it likely they’ll abandon California and the millions of residents there who rely on their cars? Or, will they adapt, invest in electric technology and keep the California market thriving. We know which one looks more obvious.
The Future is Green
In truth, the automotive industry is already making the shift to green technology. Governor Newsom was not the first, and very likely not the last, leader to make an official declaration about phasing out gasoline cars in the near future. If he were acting alone, it would be easier to criticize, but as part of a wider global movement it makes a lot of sense. What’s more, the car companies are already responding with new EV models, the prices of which are already steadily coming down to achieve parity with gasoline cars.
In the next part, we will look in more detail at what the future holds for EVs in California and the wider world. What kind of world is Newsom helping to usher in?