Ban on gas cars: Is CA right to implement by 2035?

Reed Saxon / AP

Fact Box

  • On April 13, 2022, California announced a proposal to ban the sale of gas vehicles by 2035, while promoting the sale of electric and zero-emission vehicles. If approved, it would require any new cars to be powered by batteries or hydrogen by 2026, and 100% of sales to be net-zero emissions less than 10 years later. 
  • According to the California Air Resources Board, over 15 states including New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont have adopted California’s vehicle standards under Section 177 of the Federal Clean Air Act. 
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed President Trump’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule (SAFE-1) on March 9, 2022, asserting “the actions taken under the previous administration [...] were decided in error and are now entirely rescinded” and allowing states to adopt California’s emissions standards. 
  • Statista reported 276 million registered vehicles in the United States as of 2020 with 14.5 million new light vehicles registered in that year alone. In 2018, there were 15.1 million cars registered in California.

Curtice (No)

In 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. He issued an executive order rather than going through the legislative process, suggesting that Newsom prefers to govern by decree. Given how he has operated throughout the pandemic, this is hardly news. It also suggests he could not have gotten such a drastic policy passed through even the Democratic-heavy California Assembly.

Political process aside, the price of a new electric vehicle is significantly higher than that of a new gas-powered vehicle. They are not affordable for many Californians. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of a new electric vehicle is over $51,000, more than $11,000 more than a gas-powered car.

The most important component of any electric vehicle is the lithium-ion battery, which relies on mineral commodities like cobalt, graphite, lithium, and manganese. The raw materials have to be mined, meaning they are not 'renewable.' And that is perhaps the biggest misnomer of electric vehicles—that it is all created from renewable energy. That is nonsense and patently false.

Further, California already has extremely high electricity costs. California badly manages its electricity, as rolling blackouts occur regularly in the state. If there is no electricity to recharge the car battery, then one's car sits in the garage. Last summer, state officials urged electric car owners not to charge their vehicles at certain times to avoid rolling blackouts. In 2019, only 36% of the state's electricity was produced from renewable sources.

Going electric does not mean clean energy. The current set of renewable energy sources cannot deliver the energy the United States or California needs due to their low energy output and poor efficiency. It is unlikely that will change for California significantly by 2035.

Morgan (Yes)

The most obvious reason to be in favor of this ban on gas cars is that it will do wonders for the environment. Banning the sale of gas cars will lead to more people purchasing electric cars. Although the ban only targets the sale of new gas cars and not used cars or gas-fueled cars entirely, it will still have a huge impact on the state's greenhouse gas emissions–of which 50% is contributed to by transportation. In a large state like California, where traffic is notorious for being terrible, this will significantly decrease the pollution produced by California drivers. 

California is a large state and, according to the New York Times, it's the largest market for cars in the United States and the 10th largest in the world. Car companies will be pressured to start creating more solar-run cars, which will decrease their overall price when more options are available and inevitably makes them more accessible to others, even those residing outside California. 

Additionally, this shift in the car industry—a massive industry—has the potential to influence other industries and people to make the shift to zero emissions. It will normalize electric cars and the zero-emissions lifestyle. To finally make the transition to a more climate-friendly way of living, big steps like this car ban are essential. Small steps that keep people comfortable won't make a big enough impact. While this may upset some people now, California sets an example of what states and people everywhere need; it's what's best for our country and our planet.

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