Cli­mate change: Only zero­emis­sion sales al­lowed start­ing in 2035

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Alexei Kos­eff and Dustin Gardiner

SACRAMENTO — Cal­i­for­nia will ban the sale of new gaso­line­pow­ered cars to com­bat cli­mate change start­ing in 2035, a move that could help re­shape the na­tion’s au­to­mo­bile mar­ket and its out­put of green­house gases.

Gov. Gavin New­som signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Wed­nes­day man­dat­ing that all new pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles sold in Cal­i­for­nia in 15 years be ze­roe­mis­sion — a cat­e­gory that in­cludes bat­tery­pow­ered elec­tric cars and those that run on hy­dro­gen fuel cells. The or­der di­rects the Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board to de­velop a plan for

en­sur­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of new ve­hi­cles sold in the state lead­ing up to 2035 will be ze­roe­mis­sion.

Older gaso­line­pow­ered cars would still be al­lowed on the road af­ter 2035 and peo­ple could sell them on the used­car mar­ket, New­som said.

By is­su­ing the or­der, New­som cir­cum­vents a po­ten­tially bruis­ing bat­tle over the fu­ture of gas­pow­ered ve­hi­cles in the Leg­is­la­ture, where sim­i­lar pro­pos­als have died in re­cent years amid oil in­dus­try op­po­si­tion. But it also raises the stakes in a le­gal fight with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over the ex­tent of Cal­i­for­nia’s authority to reg­u­late tailpipe emis­sions of green­house gases. The White House has al­ready sig­naled that it will fight the plan.

“If you want to re­duce asthma, if you want to mit­i­gate the rise of sea level, if you want to mit­i­gate the loss of ice sheets around the globe, then this is a pol­icy for other states to fol­low,” New­som said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence out­side the Cal­i­for­nia state fair­grounds, where he signed the ex­ec­u­tive or­der on the hood of a red, elec­tric Ford Mus­tang.

The trans­porta­tion sec­tor is the largest source of green­house gas emis­sions in Cal­i­for­nia, ac­count­ing for more than 40% of its planet­warm­ing gases in 2017, the most re­cent year for which data are avail­able. Trans­porta­tion emis­sions have stub­bornly grown in re­cent years, even as the state dra­mat­i­cally re­duced its out­put over­all. Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that re­quir­ing all new pas­sen­ger cars and trucks to be zero­emis­sion would re­duce to­tal green­house gas emis­sions by more than a third.

The or­der could in­flu­ence not just the kind of cars avail­able in Cal­i­for­nia, but also in the rest of the United States. Cal­i­for­nia is by far the coun­try’s largest ve­hi­cle mar­ket by state, and mak­ers are re­luc­tant to tai­lor one fleet for it and a sec­ond for the rest of the na­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion im­me­di­ately crit­i­cized New­som’s or­der. White House spokesman Judd Deere called the 2035 tar­get a job killer, though it was un­clear if the ad­min­is­tra­tion would take le­gal ac­tion.

“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,” Deere said in an email. “Pres­i­dent Trump won’t stand for it.”

Sev­eral of the na­tion’s largest au­tomak­ers, in­clud­ing GM and Fiat Chrysler, re­ferred ques­tions to an in­dus­try lobby. The Al­liance for Au­to­mo­tive In­no­va­tion, a trade as­so­ci­a­tion, said New­som’s or­der won’t in­crease con­sumer de­mand for elec­tric cars without more ro­bust re­bates for buy­ers.

Fewer than 6% of cars sold in Cal­i­for­nia last year were ze­roe­mis­sion ve­hi­cles. Elec­tric cars are typ­i­cally thou­sands of dol­lars more ex­pen­sive than com­pa­ra­ble gas­pow­ered mod­els, though New­som said ad­vances in bat­tery tech­nol­ogy would grad­u­ally bring down the price of elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

“Nei­ther man­dates nor bans build suc­cess­ful mar­kets,” John Bozzella, pres­i­dent of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try group, said in a state­ment. “Much more needs to be done for Cal­i­for­nia to reach its goals.”

The state bud­get for the cur­rent year cuts nearly all fund­ing for re­bates for elec­tric­car buy­ers. On Wed­nes­day, New­som noted that the state is strug­gling with a record bud­get short­fall, though he sug­gested new in­cen­tives for buy­ers are likely to come in his Jan­uary bud­get pro­posal.

New­som’s vi­sion faces an­other prac­ti­cal hur­dle: Cal­i­for­nia’s elec­tric­ve­hi­cle charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture has ma­jor gaps. If noth­ing changes, the state could have about 81,600 fewer public and shared charg­ing ports than it needs by 2025, ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia En­ergy Com­mis­sion.

Clean­car ad­vo­cates say that could limit the state’s abil­ity to tran­si­tion away from gas­pow­ered ve­hi­cles. New­som’s or­der calls on the Air Re­sources Board and other state en­ti­ties to “ac­cel­er­ate de­ploy­ment” of charg­ing sta­tions.

The gov­er­nor’s an­nounce­ment fol­lows sim­i­lar pledges by coun­tries in­clud­ing the United King­dom and France to tran­si­tion en­tirely to sales of new zero­emis­sions ve­hi­cles over the com­ing decades.

The sales ban will in­clude hy­brid and plug­in hy­brid ve­hi­cles, which still use some gaso­line or diesel in ad­di­tion to elec­tric­ity and make up more than half the new green cars cur­rently sold in the state. Mary Ni­chols, chair of the Air Re­sources Board, said that elec­tric ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing quickly and that Cal­i­for­nia’s 2035 tar­get will push the in­dus­try to adapt even faster.

“We see this 15­year pe­riod as one dur­ing which, by the end of it, peo­ple will rec­og­nize that, yes, they can find a full zero­emis­sion ve­hi­cle that meets all of their needs,” she said.

For weeks, as large swaths of Cal­i­for­nia have burned in a record wild­fire sea­son, New­som has sounded the alarm on the “cli­mate damn emer­gency” that is con­tribut­ing to more se­vere fires, and has said the state must move more swiftly to com­bat it.

But he has been crit­i­cized by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who say he has failed to back up his rhetoric. Ac­tivists are par­tic­u­larly in­censed that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has not lim­ited oil and gas drilling. In­stead, it is­sued more new per­mits in the first half of 2020 than over the same six months of 2019.

Some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists re­acted with skep­ti­cism Wed­nes­day to New­som’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der be­cause it did not deal with oil production.

“It leaves out the other half of the equa­tion. No cli­mate pol­icy can suc­ceed un­less it lim­its the amount of fos­sil fu­els that are pro­duced,” said Kassie Siegel, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity’s Cli­mate Law In­sti­tute. The cen­ter an­nounced this week its in­tent to sue Cal­i­for­nia over well per­mits that it says have been is­sued without proper en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view.

Siegel said the ban on new gas­pow­ered ve­hi­cles is a nec­es­sary step, but a tar­get date of 2035 is still too slow to get Cal­i­for­nia to its goal of car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2045.

Delia Ridge Creamer, an or­ga­nizer for Sun­rise Bay Area, an ad­vo­cacy group, said New­som should im­me­di­ately stop is­su­ing per­mits that al­low com­pa­nies to drill new oil and gas wells.

“It’s a grand show,” Ridge Creamer said. “But if you look at the ac­tual ex­ec­u­tive or­der, it doesn’t meet the scale of the moment.”

New­som said his or­der would ac­cel­er­ate Cal­i­for­nia’s tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fu­els. He said he would ask the Leg­is­la­ture to pass a law end­ing the is­suance by 2024 of new per­mits for hy­draulic frac­tur­ing, the nat­u­ral gas ex­trac­tion method also known as frack­ing, which re­leases large amounts of car­bon diox­ide and an­other green­house gas, meth­ane.

Ear­lier this sum­mer, Cal­i­for­nia adopted a first­in­then­ation re­quire­ment that would man­date that au­tomak­ers be­gin sell­ing zero­emis­sion big rigs start­ing in 2024 and would force most new trucks to go emis­sions­free by 2035.

New­som has also struck deals with five car com­pa­nies — BMW, Ford, Honda, Volk­swa­gen and Volvo — to boost the fuel ef­fi­ciency of their new mod­els above fed­eral tar­gets.

Af­ter New­som an­nounced an agree­ment with the first four au­tomak­ers last sum­mer, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion moved to re­voke a waiver that has given the state the abil­ity un­der the Clean Air Act to set stricter emis­sions stan­dards on ve­hi­cles for nearly five decades. Cal­i­for­nia im­me­di­ately filed suit to re­tain the waiver.

If the courts side with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, Cal­i­for­nia would lose the authority it has re­lied on for many of its lead­ing cli­mate poli­cies, in­clud­ing New­som’s latest ex­ec­u­tive or­der ban­ning the sale of new gas­pow­ered ve­hi­cles af­ter 2035.

The gov­er­nor said he nev­er­the­less opted not to pur­sue the ban through the Leg­is­la­ture be­cause “this moment de­mands lead­er­ship and de­mands move­ment.”

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers largely praised New­som’s or­der, but some Repub­li­cans, who make up a su­per-mi­nor­ity of both houses, slammed him for cir­cum­vent­ing the leg­isla­tive process. Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Shan­non Grove of Bak­ers­field, a ma­jor oil­pro­duc­ing re­gion of the state, said New­som’s “ex­trem­ist poli­cies” would de­stroy jobs, fur­ther strain the state’s elec­tric grid and drive up en­ergy costs for mil­lions of Cal­i­for­ni­ans al­ready liv­ing in poverty.

Daniel Kim / Sacramento Bee

Gov. Gavin New­som an­nounces his or­der to ban sales of new gas­pow­ered cars by 2035 at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

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