California’s Zero-Emission Car Mandate Is Empty Virtue Signalling
Recent news reports contained some eye-opening news, at least for those of us who are car aficionados: “In a stunning announcement, GM says it will stop making all diesel and gas-powered cars,” according to Motor Biscuit. The planned implementation date is 2035, which isn’t particularly far into the future.
I’m still grumpy about the disappearing manual transmission, and will give up my 332-horsepower 370Z when they peel the shifter from my cold, dead fingers. Whatever one’s views of electric vehicles, private industry is perfectly capable of transitioning away from internal-combustion engines without the heavy hand of California’s bumbling state government.
Flash back to September, when Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that, amid much fanfare, promised “bold action” on the “climate crisis.” It would require every new car sold in the state by 2035 to be emission free, which means a mandate for electric vehicles. “Cars shouldn’t give our kids asthma. Make wildfires worse. Melt glaciers. Or raise sea levels,” the governor tweeted.
The state should only implement such far-reaching regulations through proper legislative channels, not via gubernatorial fiat. Furthermore, Newsom’s virtue signaling ignores some crucial points—e.g., the state’s poor land-management practices have more to do with the then-raging wildfires than the sale of modern vehicles. Most significantly, Newsom’s grandiose order is largely meaningless.
Even though the 2035 phase-out date is the same, General Motors did not make its recent announcement because of Newsom’s edict. The governor and lawmakers who propose similar things in the United States and abroad understand the great advances that the private sector already is making. This is a typical progressive strategy: Pass a “bold” measure that conforms to what industry already is doing and then take credit for being visionary.
Journalists will often take the bait. A recent editorial from The Los Angeles Times used the GM decision as evidence that Newsom’s order wasn’t “fantastical.” Then it called for the state to “spend big now” on an electric-vehicle future—something the administration is gladly obliging.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently released a report on Newsom’s 2021-2022 budget as it relates to fees and funding streams to support zero-emission vehicle infrastructure. The governor plans to securitize revenue from Assembly Bill 8, which funds alternative energy and renewable fuel programs, to spend as much as $1 billion on zero-emission vehicle-fueling infrastructure.
In California’s $202-billion budget, a billion bucks may be a rounding error. But it’s still an unnecessary use of tax dollars given that, once again, private industry is busy investing heavily in an electric-vehicle network. If manufacturers want to sell these newfangled cars, they need to provide ways for drivers to charge them. Many people might buy an EV if carmakers could ease their “range anxiety”—the fear of getting stra
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