California could soon be making moves towards banning the sale of cars with internal combustion engines.
This revelation came by way of Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, who had a chat with Bloomberg regarding Governor Jerry Brown's growing interest in the ban. Nichols said, "I've gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’" Brown's question refers to how other governments in other countries like China, France, and the U.K. have already implemented plans to combat climate change by banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles. Nichols went on to say, "The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California."
As we shared before, Governor Brown signed a deal with China's Ministry of Science and Technology, pledging support for continued research into climate research and the search for low-carbon energy sources. This move to emulate China, France, and the U.K.'s similar policies could be seen as an extension of that cooperative deal.
Of course, such a radical shift would take time to implement, especially stateside. The earliest we'd see any meaningful movement towards such a ban would be at least a decade out, according to Nichols. But even then, California has its work cut out for it in terms of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. As CNET's Roadshow points out, the state already has plans in place to reduce said emissions by up to 80% by 2050.
On top of California having to pass some relatively drastic legislation, automakers would have to come around and work to complement California's new policy, lest they lose a sizeable chunk of their market. In an e-mail to the Chron, John Bozzella, the president of the Association of Global Automakers trade group, wrote, "We have been working with California on intelligent, market-based approaches to emissions reductions beyond 2025, and we hope that this doesn’t signal an abandonment of that position. To reach our goals, we will need continued investment in new technologies, the infrastructure to support them, and, perhaps most importantly, consumers who will want to buy them."
It's that last bit that's the most telling: When it comes to demonstrating to automakers that zero-emission cars are in demand, Bozzella places the onus on consumers, essentially advising people to get out there and show their support with their wallets. It's not a completely off-base statement to make, either. The Chron shared a UC Davis study, which said that people who buy fuel-efficient or zero-emission cars often end up following up that purchase with a gas guzzling automobile. David Rapson, associate professor of economics at UC Davis, co-director of the Davis Energy Economics Program, and lead author of the study said, "If people buy a more fuel-efficient car, down the road when they replace one of their cars, the car they buy is going to be less fuel-efficient. So the effect of fuel economy standards is reduced."
Rapson also went on to say that saving on gas with those fuel-efficient cars leads to those owners driving their gas-guzzlers a lot more: "On average, fuel economy standards are putting more fuel-efficient cars in households. That can be good if it reduces gasoline use. But if it causes people to buy a bigger, less fuel-efficient second car to compensate, this unintended effect will erode the intended goals of the policy."
Again, implementing a major ban on the sale of gas-powered vehicles could trigger a veritable sea change in how other states view their own contributions to climate change. But any meaningful change in any direction is still decades away. In the meantime we'll just be over here trying not to get swept up in massive hurricanes or caught in outrageous wildfires.