“Aren’t you glad you need an electric car or the bus or your feet?” one of The Fabulous Wife’s cousins in Ohio texted this morning. When The Fabulous Wife asked for clarification, the cousin wrote, “when California outlaws gas in four and a half years.” The cousin got this misinformation from a local television newscast, proving once again how irresponsible it is to equate the television news business with journalism. (I’ve long preferred the British custom of calling the stars of TV newscasts “presenters” rather than “reporters” or “anchors.” Their only essential function is reading out loud, and often they don’t even do that well.)
So for all of you who may have been misinformed about what California is doing with regard to electric cars, I’ve done the fifteen minutes of research necessary to get the story straight.
The first thing you need to know is that this is old news. Governor Gavin Newsom directed the California Air Resources Board (CARB) two years ago to come up with a plan to make all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state zero-emission by 2035. The Air Resources Board has formulated the requested regulations and is expected to approve them today, which is why the story is newsworthy now.
A summary of the regulations may be found here. They do not go into effect until 2026, when the state will require that 35% of new cars be zero-emission. The requirement increases incrementally until 2035, when all new cars sold must be zero-emission. To the heart of the Ohio television news’s misreporting: California drivers may continue to use gasoline-powered vehicles. The regulations apply only to the sale of new vehicles. They do not force anyone to give up their gas-powered car, but do create financial incentives to purchase zero-emission vehicles. (We plan on keeping our ten-year-old hybrid as long as it lasts.)
Even with that limitation, this is huge. According to the CARB, seventeen other US states follow some or all of California’s emission standards, so the new regulations will effectively transform the entire US auto market. (New York, Massachusetts, and Washington have already committed to adopting California’s rules.) The new regs have been developed in consultation with the big auto makers, which is why they’re not howling in protest. Their main concern is infrastructure. California has only 80,000 public recharging stations and needs at least three times that in short order.
So change is coming, and for once it’s good! I’m happy to see my state leading the way.
One more thing. Although the CARB developed the new regulations, Newsom is getting the attention — which he welcomes. To some degree that’s appropriate. California governors have led the way on air pollution standards since the CARB was created in 1967 by that wild-eyed liberal Ronald Reagan. California’s last Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the first to authorize the CARB to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change. In California, clean air is bipartisan, with governors setting the tone.
But this can also be seen as another step in Newsom’s evolution into a younger, more combative alternative to Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024. With his own re-election this November a foregone conclusion after his decisive win in last year’s recall, Newsom is campaigning nationally, posting on the former president’s social medium and advertising in red states like Florida, Texas, and Alabama with punchy counterfactuals to MAGA talking points.
Conor Friedersdorf, a conservative I depend on to check my commie woke antifa tendencies, finds this disturbing, saying “as a Californian dismayed by my beloved state’s problems, it’s not how I want my governor, of all people, to spend his time.” Okay, I get it. But how much time do you think Newsom actually spends trolling Ron DeSantis? I doubt he pulls all-nighters drafting those messages and seeing to their distribution. And compared to climate change and the threat to democracy, the homeless encampment at the end of my street seems secondary. So for now I’m not fretting about Newsom’s newfound hobby of running for president. Let’s clean up the environment and preserve our democracy first.