California Considers Combustion Engine Ban

By: Ryan Gallagher October 9, 2017
Los Angeles, bathed here in smog, could see clearer skies if a gas-engine ban hinted at by California Gov. Jerry Brown goes through.
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California Governor Jerry Brown has expressed interest in legislation banning gasoline or diesel fuel engines. This information was discussed in a Bloomberg interview with the Chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” said Nichols, as she referred to plans for bans in China, France, and the United Kingdom. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

However, it is not yet apparent if California officials intend to mimic these foreign plans or if they have something else in mind. 

In the past, California legislators have written environmental laws that are more aggressive than other state or federal guidelines—most recently, the state has set a goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

To bring environmental laws to life, they must first be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the likelihood that the EPA would approve such a measure is low—so California legislators may have to change state car registration laws or control which vehicles can access state highways.

“We certainly wouldn’t expect to get a waiver for [combustion engine bans] from EPA,” Nichols said, unsure if the Trump administration would go for such a plan. “I think we would be looking at using some of our other authorities to get to that result.”

As proponents of this change begin to plan, the technology and infrastructure behind electric vehicles must improve greatly before any legislation can be passed against the combustion engine.

“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,” said John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers.

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