Assembly Member Phil Ting has announced a plan to introduce legislation banning sales of new gas vehicles in California by 2040. We should embrace this opportunity to improve public health and our climate.
California’s 35 million gas and diesel powered vehicles cause thousands of Californians to suffer and die unnecessarily from lung and heart disease, cancers, dementia and asthma. Health and climate costs are estimated at $15 billion annually. Children, people who live near busy roads and who sit in traffic are especially impacted.
Ninety percent of Californians live in counties with unhealthy air. More people die of vehicle emissions in the US (53,000) than car crashes (38,000).
Gasoline-and-diesel powered transportation is also the leading cause of carbon emissions and climate change. Each gallon of gas we use emits 20 pounds of carbon into the air. We must eliminate carbon emissions from transportation to give our kids and grandkids a better chance to live comfortably on this planet.
Some worry that Assembly Member Ting’s bill means the government will take away their vehicles. But according to the announcement, the legislation would only ban sales of NEW gas vehicles starting in 2040. You can keep your gas cars (if you’re okay with poisoning the folks sitting in traffic behind you and neighbors living along the streets where you drive). You just won’t be able to buy a new gas car starting in 2040.
Naysayers argue that we can’t transition away from gasoline because the alternatives are not completely sorted out yet. They say electric vehicle (EV) range is not sufficient, the selection of models is not adequate, and the cars aren’t affordable. They claim we’ll just be switching one dirty fuel (gas) for another (electricity), and causing another environmental problem with EV batteries. They say there’s not enough EV charging infrastructure.
Many of these issues are already resolved; the remainder will be soon. The Chevy Bolt EV and Tesla models already have 250-300+ mile ranges, and models with ranges of up to 500 miles per charge are coming out soon. Ford and GM recently announced commitments to bring a total of 33 new EV models to market in the next few years. Electric pickup trucks are in the works that will also serve as a place to plug in power tools. Financial analysts predict that new EVs will cost the same as (or less than) comparable gas cars by 2025 or sooner. For many people, total costs of owning an EV are already below those of gas cars, thanks to lower fuel and maintenance costs. The electricity to power EVs is increasingly carbon free. Twenty-nine percent of California’s electricity comes from renewables like solar and wind today, and 50% must be renewable by 2030. Issues of EV battery re-use and recycling are being addressed.
There’s no longer any question that clean, long-range EVs will be available in makes and models to satisfy every need. A ban on new gas cars would provide market certainty for automakers, charging companies and utilities to ramp up production and ensure sufficient infrastructure to support a transition to EVs.
Past experience with seat belts, unleaded gasoline, air bags, fuel economy and emissions standards shows that intelligent regulation can improve public health and/or climate with little disruption to our lifestyle or our economy. Waiting for individual consumer preference alone to take hold will take much too long. How many thousands of Californians will die or suffer while waiting? How much additional carbon pollution will we spew into the atmosphere?
California is already the world leader in electric vehicles. We’re ready to phase out gas vehicles. Let’s pass this bill and get moving.