No ICE: California bans sale of non zero-emission cars from 2035

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All Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero-emission where feasible by 2045

Air transport, marine not affected.

Complete details and text of landmark announce

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 and additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector.

The Actions

Following the order, the California Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emission by 2035 – a target which the governor said would achieve more than a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide.

In addition, the Air Resources Board will develop regulations to mandate that all operations of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles shall be 100 percent zero emission by 2045 where feasible, with the mandate going into effect by 2035 for drayage trucks. To ensure needed infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles, the order requires state agencies, in partnership with the private sector, to accelerate deployment of affordable fueling and charging options. It also requires support of new and used zero-emission vehicle markets to provide broad accessibility to zero-emission vehicles for all Californians. The executive order will not prevent Californians from owning gasoline-powered cars or selling them on the used car market.

The Complete Text

It’s here.

The Rationale

The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California’s carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog-forming pollution and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions, the Governor said. 

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” said Governor Newsom. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

No Cost Impact?

In issuing the executive order, Newsom said by “the time the new rule goes into effect, zero-emission vehicles will almost certainly be cheaper and better than the traditional fossil fuel powered cars. “ He added that “the upfront cost of electric vehicles are projected to reach parity with conventional vehicles in just a matter of years, and the cost of owning the car – both in maintenance and how much it costs to power the car mile for mile – is far less than a fossil fuel burning vehicle.”

The Practical Impact

For now, not much. California will not be able to mandate much in the way of a transition until the COVID-based economic crisis passes, above and beyond what the state is already doing with incentives for EVs and production and sales targets. 

Why this is mostly window dressing

California was already sharply decarbonizing and the LCFS is targeted to reduce transportation emissions by 20 percent compared to the baseline, by 2030, and the baseline was dropping roughly 1 percent per year. So, California was scheduled to be at roughly 25 percent, anyway, by 2035 — not starting to move that way in 2035.

And in “California’s Clean Fuel Future: Assessing Achievable Fuel Carbon Intensity Reductions Through 2030” — Ceres, NextGen America, and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that California could feasibly shift to up to a 26 percent target by 2030.

Biofuels Impact

No, renewable fuels are not being thrown out of California.

1. First of all, this is an order for California passenger car sales starting in 2035. Doesn’t impact vehicles sold elsewhere and transferred into California, and there will be plenty of gasoline-powered vehicles on the road into the 2050s given that it takes almost 20 years to turn over a fleet.

2. Doesn’t impact medium and heavy duty trucks, excepting those sold in California and the clock doesn’t start ticking until 2045 for them — we’re looking at a phase-down of renewable diesel in or around the 2050s and 2060s.

3. Air transport and marine are not impacted.

4. The executive order noted that “The State Air Resources Board, in consultation with other State agencies, shall develop and propose strategies to continue the State’s current efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels beyond 2030 with consideration of the full life cycle of carbon.”

And the order recognizes that “California is already working to decarbonize the transportation fuel sector through the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which recognizes the full life cycle of carbon in transportation emissions including transport into the State.”

The Bottom Line

We like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard better. 

It doesn’t pick a winner, such as EV engines — after all, given that these guys are going to have a mandated monopoly, where’s the incentive to drive down EV vehicle costs, de-carbonize the power industry and transition the fleet? Some people say that mandates don’t work, and there’s disagreement about that, But try and find an economist who thinks that monopolies are a good idea. 

The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a simpler and better idea, though it doesn’t generate the same headline power. It simply says that California will reduce carbon — and lets the markets figure out which combination of technologies and infrastructures will deliver that most efficiently. 

California was on a fast trajectory, so fast that the California legislature doubled down on the LCFS and increased the carbon reduction targets — precisely because it was working so well. 

We would have been happier if the Governor and legislature had shifted the targets more aggressively on carbon — say, 35 percent by 2035, and let markets figure out how to deliver.  



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