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Move Ahead Washington
The Move Ahead Washington plan. Image credit: State of Washington

Clean Transport

Washington Could Ban Internal Combustion Cars By 2030

The state of Washington has a bold new climate policy.

The Washington legislature has passed, and Governor Jay Inslee has signed, the Move Ahead Washington program which will slash emissions in the transportation sector in that state and make it a model for other US states to follow. One of the key features of the program is a ban on the sale of private passenger vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel internal combustion engines beginning with model year 2030. Since model year 2022 vehicles are already on sale, that means the ban will take effect just 7 years from now.

“Transportation is our state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation. This package will move us away from the transportation system our grand-parents imagined and towards the transportation system our grand-children dream of,” Inslee said in a statement.

Key to the initiative is the state’s cap and invest program, created after the passage of the governor’s Climate Commitment Act last year. Washington’s transportation spending is largely funded by the state’s gas tax and state vehicle license fees. The state’s constitution dictates these revenues can only be spent on highways and highway-related programs. Cap and invest revenue, however, is specifically directed to non-highway projects and programs that reduce climate pollution. At least 35% of funds must go toward serving overburdened and marginalized communities.

“Thanks to the Climate Commitment Act passed last year, our cap-and-invest program is providing billions of dollars that we can use to equitably turn the cost of carbon pollution into low- and no-carbon transportation options. This is a plan that finally allows us to build for our future,” Inslee said in a Medium post.

Now in his third term as governor, Inslee has pursued ambitious policies that some influential voices doubted but have come to fruition in recent years, including the nation’s most ambitious 100% clean electricity policy and a nation-leading clean buildings policy. He has promoted rapid electric vehicle adoption and made Washington a leading clean tech hub thanks in part to the launch of a state Clean Energy Fund and the Clean Energy Institute at University of Washington.

The Move Ahead Washington program includes a series of policy initiatives and investments that will span the next 16 years. They include such things as four new hybrid-electric ferries, tens of thousands of new electric vehicle charging stations, 25 additional transit electrification projects across the state, including an ultra high speed rail link.  In total, the state estimates the package will support about 2,390 construction and ferry jobs annually.

“Transportation is our state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation,” Inslee said during a signing ceremony for the new legislation. “This package will move us away from the transportation system our grand-parents imagined and towards the transportation system our grand-children dream of.”

Inslee was a candidate for president in 2020, but was rejected by Democratic voters, who saw his policies as too extreme. One wonders if their definition of “extreme” will change once sea level rise makes its mark on America in the years to come.

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