No, it's not your 'God-given right' to buy a new gas-powered car

By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

For years, automakers have pleaded that, much as they'd love to lead the way to a zero-emissions vehicular future, they just can't wean Americans from their love of SUVs and other gas-guzzlers.

California just called their bluff.

An executive order signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom aims to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks in the state by 2035.

The first-in-the-nation policy is far more stringent than anything the state has implemented before. But given that a dozen states accounting for 40% of the American market already conform to California's auto rules, the policy could spread quickly.

Newsom placed his order firmly in the context of the crisis of climate change, which is on vivid display via California's ferocious wildfires.

"Why now? With 3.7 million acres burning, to date, after the hottest August in history, a five-year historic drought? Enough - I feel a deep intellectual and emotional need to address this moment head-on by being much more proactive," Newsom told me.


But let's not overlook the political context. Newsom's order is also a shot fired at the nation's number-one climate change denier, President Trump, whose administration has been rolling back existing emissions standards and has revoked California's decades-old authority to set its own rules. (Both steps are vulnerable to legal challenge.)

The order takes aim at auto emissions because they're still the largest single source of air pollution in the state, accounting for nearly 50% of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Moreover, vehicular emissions have been rising in recent years.

It comes against the backdrop of the split within the auto industry in the battle between Trump and California.

After the administration proposed its rollback of emission rules and the revocation of a waiver granting California the authority to set its own emissions rules, five international automakers - Ford, Honda, BMW of North America, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo - signed agreements to meet California standards.


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