California’s plan to ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035 faces EPA scrutiny

California, the largest U.S. auto market, has a bold plan to require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids. The plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, is the first of its kind in the nation and one of the most aggressive in the world.

However, the plan is not without challenges. The state needs the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement its new rules, which would override the federal standards set by the Trump administration. The EPA will hold a hearing next week to review California’s request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act, which would allow the state to set its own emission standards.

California’s plan to ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035 faces EPA scrutiny
California’s plan to ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035 faces EPA scrutiny

The benefits of the plan

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the agency that approved the plan in August 2022, the transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) will have significant benefits for the environment, public health, and the economy.

The plan will slash emissions from cars and light trucks, which are the single largest source of global warming emissions and air pollution in the state. By 2037, the plan will deliver a 25% reduction in smog-causing pollution from light-duty vehicles, which will help the state meet federal air quality standards. The plan will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 35% by 2035 and 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

The plan will also improve the health and well-being of Californians, especially those who live near highways and other heavily traveled roads. The plan will prevent thousands of premature deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by vehicle emissions. The plan will also save consumers money on fuel and maintenance costs, as electric vehicles are cheaper to operate and maintain than gas-powered vehicles.

The plan will also boost the state’s economy and create jobs in the clean energy sector. The plan will spur innovation and investment in electric vehicle technology, infrastructure, and manufacturing. The plan will also reduce the state’s dependence on imported oil and increase its energy security and resilience.

The challenges of the plan

Despite the potential benefits of the plan, there are also some hurdles and uncertainties that the state will have to overcome. The most immediate challenge is to obtain the EPA’s approval, which is not guaranteed under the Biden administration. The EPA has the authority to grant or deny California’s waiver request, based on whether the state’s standards are at least as protective of public health and welfare as the federal standards.

The EPA granted California a waiver in 2013, under the Obama administration, to set its own emission standards for vehicles. However, the Trump administration revoked the waiver in 2019, arguing that the state’s standards were preempted by the federal standards and that a single national standard was preferable. The state challenged the revocation in court, but the case was put on hold after President Biden took office and ordered the EPA to reconsider the issue.

The EPA has not indicated how it will rule on California’s waiver request, but it has signaled its support for the state’s leadership on climate change and clean transportation. The EPA has also proposed to restore the Obama-era emission standards for vehicles, which were rolled back by the Trump administration, and to set more stringent standards for the future. The EPA is expected to finalize its new rules by July 2024.

Another challenge for the state is to ensure the availability and affordability of ZEVs for all consumers, especially low- and moderate-income households and communities of color. The state has allocated $10 billion in its budget to accelerate the transition to ZEVs, including incentives, rebates, and financing programs for ZEV buyers, as well as grants and loans for ZEV manufacturers and dealers. The state has also committed to expanding the charging and refueling infrastructure for ZEVs, with a goal of installing 250,000 public chargers and 200 hydrogen stations by 2025.

However, some critics argue that the state’s plan is too ambitious and unrealistic, given the current market share and consumer preferences for ZEVs. According to the CARB, ZEVs accounted for only 8.1% of new vehicle sales in California in 2022, far below the 35% target for 2026. Moreover, some consumers may prefer gas-powered vehicles for their range, performance, and convenience, and may not be willing or able to switch to ZEVs by 2035.

The state’s plan also faces opposition from some automakers and dealers, who argue that the plan will limit consumer choice and hurt their sales and profits. Some automakers have sued the state over its plan, claiming that it violates the federal law and the Constitution. However, some automakers have also supported the state’s plan, or have announced their own plans to phase out gas-powered vehicles by 2035 or sooner.

The implications of the plan

California’s plan to ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035 is a bold and visionary move that could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. and the world. The plan could set a precedent and an example for other states and countries to follow, as the global community strives to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The plan could also accelerate the development and adoption of ZEV technology, which could lead to more innovation, competition, and cost reduction in the industry. The plan could also create new opportunities and challenges for the energy sector, as the demand for electricity and hydrogen will increase, while the demand for gasoline and diesel will decrease.

The plan could also have a significant impact on the health and well-being of millions of Californians, who will breathe cleaner air and enjoy a safer and more sustainable transportation system. The plan could also save the state and the society billions of dollars in health care costs, environmental damages, and fuel expenditures.

California’s plan to ban gas-powered vehicles by 2035 is a bold and visionary move that could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. and the world.

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