The Future is Electric, with California Leading the Way
Friday, March 05, 2021
By Gavin Newsom
California is creating and growing the markets of the future. It happens here first because our ambitious policies to protect the planet and public health have not only cleared the air but also fueled our economic growth — and developed pathways that the federal government can model nationally.
Our steadfast commitment to zero-emission vehicles takes into account that transportation is an integral part of our way of life and reduces harm to the air we breathe and the planet we leave for our kids’ future.
Last fall, I committed that only zero-emission vehicles would be sold in California by 2035. Today, zero-emission vehicles are California’s fastest-growing export. It came as no surprise last week when another automobile manufacturer, General Motors, announced it would follow California’s lead and commit to manufacturing only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. And then, seeing the handwriting on the wall, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler dropped their defense of Trump-era lawsuits challenging California’s authority to set clean car standards. With the renewed energy and hope created by President Biden’s leadership on climate change and equity, California is leading toward an electrifying future.
We’ve been leading the way for decades. Sixty years ago, the smog in Los Angeles was debilitating, and scientists determined it was emissions belching from the tailpipes of cars and trucks that were to blame. California, then as now, jumped into action and crafted our nation’s first rules to reduce smog from vehicles. Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan enacted what were, at the time, the strictest air quality standards in the nation. Shortly thereafter, those identical standards were adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, taking California’s laws governing the production of cleaner cars nationwide. The Golden State’s role in setting stricter-than-federal auto rules was made formal in the Clean Air Act signed by another Californian, President Richard Nixon.
These cutting-edge policies were also smart for our economy. Our state is now home to more than 500,000 advanced-energy jobs, including those focused on manufacturing zero-emission cars, buses and trucks. Our state’s gross domestic product growth has outpaced the nation, while we hit our 2020 climate target four years early. We are home to 34 zero-emission vehicle and equipment manufacturers who are driving economic growth across the state. Californians are behind the wheel of 45% of the country’s zero-emission cars. And this is just the beginning. Going zero-emission is key to our economic recovery strategy.
This sustained focus on our climate must continue. Transportation is responsible for the majority of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in California, which puts it at the top of both our state and nation's climate to-do list. If we are going to keep moving with the urgency the climate crisis demands, we must accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels by drastically reducing demand for gas-powered vehicles. We have a huge economic opportunity to lead the world by prioritizing innovation and investments in zero-emission vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure.
But national vehicle emissions standards need to catch up to include trucks that emit toxic diesel emissions. Decades of environmental inequity have resulted in communities of color living next to freeways, warehouses, ports and rail yards, leading residents to suffer disproportionately from asthma and elevated cancer risks. Last summer, the California Air Resources Board adopted the world’s first zero-emission commercial truck requirements — manufacturers must start selling zero-emission heavy-duty trucks in 2024, and by 2045, they can sell only clean trucks.
The transportation revolution needs to be inclusive. The barriers to purchasing electric cars are often greatest for low-income communities and communities of color. We need to make ZEVs work for those most in need. In California we’ve started by “operationalizing equity” through investing nearly 60% of our market-based cap-and-trade revenues to combat pollution in disadvantaged communities and establishing a low-carbon fuel standard that requires high-carbon intensity fuels and subsidizes zero-emission vehicles. Our policies must work to reverse disparities, promote justice and serve the most vulnerable populations.
Californians are being devastated by the impacts of climate change — fueling the biggest wildfires in a century, worsening our air quality and putting our health at risk. By taking swift, equitable action to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, we can together deliver a climate-safe future for all.
During the last four years, the national clean car rules that President Obama put in place were undermined by the Trump administration with the support of big oil and car companies. This resulted in California’s car rules, followed by 13 states and the District of Columbia, being stricter than the scientifically unjustifiable standards rushed through by the Trump EPA (these so-called SAFE II rules are currently being litigated, and many car companies are still on the wrong side). Luckily there is a solution at hand that can get us to 2026 when the current scheme expires (after which we will need a road map to a zero-emission 2035). California together with Ford, Honda, VW, BMW and Volvo last year brokered deals to cut emissions from the fleet, between now and 2026, and set us on a path to zero from there.
Now, just as in the past, by following California’s leadership, we can continue to create jobs, improve health and advance equity. We can electrify our economy and our future.
Category: California, Energy News