The latest battle in Sacramento’s war on California’s middle class is the push to ban the internal combustion engine.
Luckily, the effort has stalled.
The legislation that would have imposed the ban, Assembly Bill 1745, died last month, but bad ideas in California have a way of recurring like nightmares. We will see this proposal again, either as legislation next year or perhaps even as a ballot initiative. A number of so-called progressive candidates on the ballot this year have publicly stated they embrace this foolish idea.
The bill that was stopped, AB1745, would have prohibited the Department of Motor Vehicles from registering a new vehicle unless it was a zero emissions vehicle, beginning on January 1, 2040. Under the proposed law, a new car with an internal combustion engine could not legally be driven in California after that date.
A ban on internal combustion engines would certainly limit mobility and transportation options for millions of California families and businesses. And it would arbitrarily limit the development and use of advanced and efficient vehicle technologies, the kind that have already achieved great success in squeezing extra miles out of a gallon of gas.
Today, despite the availability of ZEVs, a substantial publicly funded rebate program and access to HOV lanes, ZEVs accounted for only 1.9 percent of the over 2,000,000 new passenger vehicles sold in California in 2016. And many of these sales are repeat sales to the same households, according to the UC Davis Institute of Transportation, raising the question of whether plug-in vehicles are experiencing widespread consumer rejection, outside of a limited group of true believers.
A ban on internal combustion engines is an attempt to force consumers into buying vehicles that they have decided are not best suited to their needs.
The better alternative is leveraging all available vehicle technologies, including efficient internal combustion engines, so that California can reach its environmental goals without banning or discouraging any technological innovations.
California’s current regulatory mandates have resulted in the state having the highest gas prices in the nation. That has burdened average Californians with a higher cost of living, yet it has not been enough to overcome the significant obstacles to driving a zero-emission vehicle — including the purchase price, the limited range, and the inadequate number of charging stations.
The better option for most California drivers is an increase in the efficiency of internal combustion engines. But a ban on those engines in California would suffocate the market for these new technologies and stop innovation dead in its tracks.
Despite the increased use of renewable energy — mostly solar and wind power — fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source in America well beyond the target date of California’s proposed ban. Even more than a quarter of a century from now, the Department of Energy forecasts that fossil fuels will still be the dominant energy source, providing 79 percent of our energy needs in 2050. Far from being “energy sources of the past,” fossil fuels will continue as the dominant energy source to power our vehicles, heat and light our homes, and fuel the growing economy.
The production of the batteries on which the majority of ZEVs rely is not free from severe environmental consequences. It’s a dirty secret of the high-tech world that lithium battery production involves heavy mining operations and that the cobalt required in those batteries is sometimes mined in Africa using child labor.
Closer to home, a ban on the registration of new cars with internal combustion engines would mean millions of Californians who can’t afford ZEVs will be unable to buy a new car and drive it legally in the state. While the wealthy may be able to get around the inconvenience of the ban, once again, average Californians will bear an unreasonable burden for the fashionable whims of Sacramento politicians.