Assemblyman Phil Ting, who represents the city of San Francisco in the California legislature, has filed a bill that would allow only zero-emissions cars to be sold in the Golden State beginning in 2040. As radical as that may seem, it is fully in line with initiatives in several other countries. China has a plan in the works to ban all cars powered by an internal combustion engine. France has already enacted such a ban, beginning in 2040. The UK says it will do the same. India is planning to ban gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles as well, but 10 years earlier.
Mary Nichols, head of the powerful California Air Resources Board, said last fall that she gets “love notes” frequently from Governor Jerry Brown asking why the state is not aggressively following the lead of China and the other nations. Brown is an ardent proponent of the Paris climate accords and has pledged that his state will meet or exceed the goals set by those agreements despite the backwards-looking approach adopted by federal officials in the Trump maladministration.
Ping told the press in a statement, “We’re at an inflection point: We’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” and noted that vehicles that run on fossil fuels are responsible for nearly 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. California says that by 2040, its statewide carbon emissions will only be 80% of what they were in 1990. As part of that effort, Governor Brown says he wants 1.5 million zero-emissions cars on the road in California by 2025.
At present, even though more zero-emissions cars are sold in California than any other state, they still account for only 1.9% of new car sales there. There are 300,000 electric cars in California at the moment, so getting to 100% electric in the next 22 years is an ambitious goal. Whether it can be achieved will depend a lot on lower battery prices and increases in EV charging infrastructure, especially for the millions of apartment and condo dwellers in the state who currently are unable to recharge their vehicles overnight at home.
The push for zero-emissions vehicles will set up what could be a cataclysmic confrontation with federal officials. California currently enjoys an exemption from EPA rules that permits it to impose higher emissions standards than those in the other 49 states. The EPA, under the dictatorial guidance of Scott Pruitt, could revoke that exception, a move that would provoke a legal challenge from California which will claim it has the legal right to protect the health and welfare of its citizens even if others are content to see their residents suffer shorter, less healthy lives in order to satisfy the insatiable greed of the fossil fuel industry.