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The state that helped bring car culture to the forefront of American life is preparing to do the same with electric vehicles. In a lull between dangerous hot-weather patterns during the worst fire season in California’s history, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday banning the sale of new, gas-powered cars and passenger trucks beginning in 2035.
“We are marking a new course,” Newsom said in a press conference in Sacramento in front of a fleet of zero-emission electric vehicles. “We are setting a new marker. We’re advancing the cause, with the support of the California Air Resources Board, to once again lead not only this nation but in many respects lead the world.”
Already, the state is ahead of the country when it comes to electric cars: While 2 percent of new vehicle sales nationally were electric, that number was 5.3 percent in California, where transportation makes up over half of the state’s carbon pollution. With Wednesday’s announcement, sustainable-energy advocates hope that Newsom’s push will be replicated elsewhere, similar to the intention behind the state’s attempts to set stringent emissions restrictions for gas-powered vehicles so that automakers throughout the world must respond to the demands of the massive Golden State market. Newsom’s office estimates that the vehicle rules — which do not ban the sale of used gas-powered cars — will cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 35 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent.
Naturally, the Trump administration did not respond favorably. “This is yet another example of how extreme the left has become,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Wednesday. “They want the government to dictate every aspect of every American’s life, and the lengths to which they will go to destroy jobs and raise costs on the consumer is alarming. President Trump won’t stand for it.” Last year, the White House blocked the state’s strict emissions guidelines, an order the state is now suing to rescind.
Newsom’s announcement faced pushback by both environmental and automotive interests. While the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group for domestic and international manufacturers, stated Wednesday that “widespread stakeholder engagement” and consumer demand are required for major increases in electric-vehicle production, environmentalists criticized the governor for not immediately banning fracking in the state. (While severely cutting the number of gas-powered vehicles on California roads would reduce emissions and improve air quality, the project remains incomplete if the grid on which electric cars charge is powered by fossil fuels.) “Newsom can’t claim climate leadership while handing out permits to oil companies to drill and frack,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement. “He has the power to protect Californians from oil-industry pollution, and he needs to use it, not pass the buck.”
As part of the initiative, Newsom has asked the California Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for the electric rollout, to substantially increase charge ports; the state already is planning to build 1 million by 2030. And on the industry side of things, on Wednesday, Tesla announced that within three years it would debut an electric vehicle that costs $25,000, bringing the most popular electric car make into the average price range of a new sedan.