California to Study a Ban on Sales of Cars with Internal Combustion Engines

California Assemblyman Phil Ting has tried unsuccessfully for the last two years to end the sale of new gas and diesel-powered passenger motor vehicles by 2040. He achieved some success by securing funds in an approved budget bill to study a ban.

3 minute read

June 19, 2019, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Lombard Street San Francisco

SurangaSL / Shutterstock

"Last year, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) introduced his Clean Cars 2040 Act, a sweeping bill to require every new passenger car sold in California to be a zero-emission vehicle within a little more than two decades," writes Dustin Gardinera state Capitol reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

After that bill died, he came back with a more modest proposal this session. AB 40 would have required the state to develop a strategy to get to the 2040 goal, without putting the ban into law.

However, that bill died as well.

“It’s actually embarrassing that California still hasn’t taken action,” Ting said, noting that countries including China, France and Britain have plans to promote the use of electric cars and other vehicles that don’t emit greenhouse gases. “If you want clean air, you need clean cars.”

[Correspondent's note: Jack Ewing, who reported on the French target on July 6, 2017, for The New York Times, acknowledged that it "is less ambitious than ones set by countries like Norway and India."]

"Ting found another route in the state’s new [$215 billion] budget, which lawmakers passed Thursday, thanks to a little-debated $1.5 million appropriation," adds Gardiner. "It helped that Ting was vice chairman of the conference committee that negotiated a budget deal among the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Gavin Newsom."

If Newsom doesn’t blue-pencil the idea out of the spending plan, state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld will work with state agencies to conduct the study. The budget doesn’t give a deadline for them to issue a report.

Broad-based study

The study, which won't include the 2040 timeframe for the ban, will not be confined to motor vehicle technology but would look at other strategies to "achieve carbon neutrality [pdf] in the [transportation] sector [...] such as changing land-use planning and increasing transit ridership."

That's good because the state won't meet its climate goals even if were to increase electric vehicle sales ten-fold, reported the Los Angeles Times last November. It would still need to reduce vehicle miles traveled per capita by 25 percent.

As to why AB 40 died this year, Gardiner reports that Sierra Club California, which strongly backed the bill, blamed it on Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, who chairs the Transportation Committee. Frazier, in turn, criticized the Sierra Club for "refus[ing] to compromise on a few words of the bill’s language, which he didn’t specify."

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Hat tip to Jim Stewart.

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