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

September 23, 2020 |

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.

California transportation leaders  are required to plan near term actions and investments in support of the order by 7/15/2021.

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.”

Reaction from the stakeholders

Tyson Keever, Chair of the California Advanced Biofuels Alliance:

“We understand what Governor Newsom is trying to achieve and laud the move to a low-carbon transportation future, but an electric-only future is not a science-based solution. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has a proven, technology driven, market-based solution right in front of them in the form of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. Through biodiesel, renewable diesel, and numerous other home-grown sources, the program reduced 14.6 million tons of carbon emissions in 2019 alone, with room for diverse growth well into the future.”

“Biodiesel and renewable diesel can reduce carbon today and help move the State away from petroleum. In fact, biodiesel and renewable diesel alone have displaced over 3.3 billion gallons of petroleum diesel since the LCFS program began in 2011. This announcement only harms our industry that has proven time and time again to be at the focal point of the success of the LCFS. We need to embrace all carbon-reducing fuels and not pick winners and losers.”

The Bottom Line

We like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard better. 

Why? Mandated monopolies for EVs remove incentives by manufacturers to drive down EV vehicle costs, and for power producers to de-carbonize. Why should they take the risks of innovation to build market share when it’s been handed to them already? Try and find an economist who thinks that energy monopolies are a good idea. Do you like the huge prices for tickets to professional sports, and remember with longing a time when seats at ballparks were cheap? Notice how much cord-cutting is happening with people fed up with the prices for cable and phone monopolists? Monopolies (from sports franchises to cable prices) don’t help consumers, they hurt them.

Also? The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a simpler and better idea. It doesn’t generate the same sexy headlines, but it packs a punch in performance. 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.  And, if the state extended it’s low carbon standard to the everyday materials of life — from agriculture to clothing and food, that would be even better.

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