Op Ed by our curmudgeonly Op Ed guy
California has decided to become the first state in the US to introduce legislation banning cars that are entirely fueled by internal combustion engines (aka Gas & Deasil). They aren’t the first government to do so world-wide, they’re following in the footsteps of France, the U.K. and India. Even China has announced plans to ban fossil fuel cars.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Assemblyman Phil Ting will introduce the bill in January. Ting is quoted as saying CA Gov. Jerry Brown called after seeing China announce their intentions and asked why CA wasn’t already doing it. California actually had already committed, (as of 2012), to put 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. That would require a full 15% of new car sales to be electric or hybrid vehicles and it’s currently just under 5%.
To fix this gap Ting intends to increase incentives for drivers of EVs and rebates for new EV buyers.
It’ll likely take that, as we mentioned before sales of electronic vehicles slumped quickly as soon as the 2012 incentives expired. The only thing we know for sure happens when the market is pressured to buy electronic cars is that truck sales increase.
This new legislation will likely go beyond simply incentives and goals, to actually banning new combustion vehicle sales in the state. At least that’s what the Europe and China versions aim to do by 2040.
Here at the Kicker, we’re all for saving the environment and if you see pictures of the air quality in China or LA it is pretty clear why reduced air pollution would be attractive. Of course, there are a few positive and negative factors to consider with laws like these.
One quick negative might be that electricity would need to be generated to meet the new power demand. If they don’t increase supply prices will go up, affecting the price of everything from charging your cell phone to the cost of hot water in your home or how much it costs to dine out. Much of China’s pollution is actually from coal plants that generate power. Coal power can be made cleaner than perhaps China does at this point, and one of the positives to electricity is that it could be generated by many different fuels. Many proponents of EVs point out that whatever fuel is most economical, area by area is likely what would create the increased power to meet the increased demand. So it could come from burning coal, crude oil, natural gas, ethanol etc. You know the stuff we currently use as fuel.
Of course, you add sources like wind, solar, and dams. If the goal is to reduce environmental impact then its likely that lawmakers are hoping most of this increased fuel need will be met by renewable resources like these. However, of the three only one is less expensive than fossil fuel, dams, and they are not popular with environmentalists.
Another potential positive is that you wouldn’t have to burn fossil fuels on trucks and trains to deliver fossil fuels to market. Even if you simply burn fossil fuels to generate electricity you can then ship the electricity to cars in a garage instead of driving it to a station. Well except for line loss.
Line loss refers to the amount of electricity that’s lost to resistance in transmission lines, so it’s likely a wash in terms of efficiency. You either burn gas to haul gas or you burn electricity to send electricity. And since gas can be stored as potential energy whereas there’s no large-scale power storage we need the ability to generate exactly what we need when we need it. That would probably necessitate nuclear power plants which can ramp up and down with demand. Unless you want to only charge your car when the wind is blowing and the sun is out.
Which brings us to the next potential negative—batteries. The stuff you make batteries out of isn’t exactly environmentally friendly either in the mining of it or the disposal of it when it’s lifespan ends. Now we may have solutions to that by the year 2040.
Perhaps there are options we could brainstorm that would reduce auto emissions, as much or more than a draconian ban.
Option 1: Increase the supply of power through local generation, thereby making it cheaper, thereby making EVs more attractive.
Option 2: Require companies with more than a few dozen employees to turn some of those positions into remote work, taking commuters off the roads. Or increase the number of vacation days and require employees to take them.
Option 3: Make Elon Musk the governor of California so that someone creates laws that are scientifically sound instead of following fads they read about in the news.