California to ban sales of gas powered cars by 2035

The announcement left many wondering how a state with mandated rolling blackouts and an aging power grid will be able to keep up with the additional power requirements.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

On Wednesday California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles, effective in 2035.

"This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change," said Newsom. "For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn't have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse—and create more days filled with smoky air."

The announcement left many wondering how a state with mandated rolling blackouts and an aging power grid will be able to keep up with the additional power requirements.

In August, as temperatures began to rise in California, the manager of much of the state's electric grid called on utilities to cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers. According to the New York Times, "The California Independent System Operator, the nonprofit entity that controls the flow of electricity for 80 percent of California, said it acted after three power plants shut down and wind power production dropped. It also cited a lack of access to electricity from out-of-state sources."

The blackouts comes at a time when people, particularly the elderly, are forced to remain indoors due to Covid-19 amid sweltering temperatures. The immediate reason for the black-outs was the failure of a 500-megawatt power plant and an out-of-service 750-megawatt unit not being available.

However, Forbes claims these blackouts may be the result of California's radical "climate change" policies. Last October, "Pacific Gas and Electric cut off power to homes across California to avoid starting forest fires. The utility and California's leaders had over the previous decade diverted billions meant for grid maintenance to renewables."

Power was frequently shut off to customers this year during the massive wildfires because experts claimed that the aging power lines could spark a fire during the extremely dry weather. According to the Associated Press, fire officials said "Pacific Gas & Electric transmission lines sparked a wildfire in Northern California wine country last year that destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee." The article continues that "The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said investigators determined that lines northeast of Geyserville were responsible for igniting the Kincade Fire last October that ripped through a wide swath of Sonoma County."

The announcement of mandated blackouts was most likely a result of PG&E in June pleading guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for a November 2018 wildfire that largely destroyed the city of Paradise. The Camp Fire was the deadliest US wildfire in a century. In 2019, the company also announced planned blackouts claiming it was to avoid winds from knocking down lines or blowing tree branches into them.

According to Forbes "Last December, a report by done for PG&E concluded that the utility's customers could see blackouts double over the next 15 years and quadruple over the next 30." In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown forced a nuclear power plant, San Onofre, in southern California to close as part of new anti-nuclear policies. The capacity of San Onofre was double that of the capacity that triggered the blackout.

"There has been very little electricity from wind during the summer heatwave in California and the broader western US, further driving up demand. In fact, the same weather pattern, a stable high-pressure bubble, is the cause of heatwaves, since it brought very low wind for days on end along with very high temperatures.”

Another alternative energy source is solar panels, which, due to their unreliable and weather-dependent nature, were accompanied by large new costs in the form of storage and transmission to keep electricity as reliable. In the winter, there is far less solar electricity than the summer. Solar storage cannot work through long winters of low output. "California's solar panels and farms were all turning off as the blackouts began, with no help available from the states to the East already in nightfall."

During his announcement, Newsom also threw his support behind a ban on the controversial use of hydraulic fracturing by oil companies cutting off another energy option for the state.

Forbes claims that "Had California spent an estimated $100 billion on nuclear instead of on wind and solar, it would have had enough energy to replace all fossil fuels in its in-state electricity mix. To manage the increasingly unreliable grid, California will either need to keep its nuclear plant operating, build more natural gas plants, or pay ever more money annually to reserve emergency electricity supplies from its neighbors."

The ongoing California electrical shortage left many skeptical the ban could be enacted. According to the Wall Street Journal "California's ban could end up in court, where the Trump administration is already challenging a 1970 law that gave California the right to set its own emissions standards."

Analysts believe that "The California ban and similar actions across 17 other countries around could mark a tipping point. A combustion-engine ban will limit choices for consumers, automatically boosting demand for electric vehicles, which would give manufacturers additional scale, lowering their overall costs and boosting profits."

According to data firm IHS Markit more than 11 percent of all light vehicles in the US last year were registered in California. Though car companies continue to pivot to electric, the used car market is still the bulk of auto sales in the US each year. According to the New York Post "Americans typically become more frugal and favor used cars in uncertain times. Cars remain a vital commodity in a country where getting to work without a vehicle is impossible in all but a few large cities."

Unless prices of electric cars continue to fall and the US consumer opts for new electric cars rather than the internal combustion engines of cheaper used cars, Californians may choose to buy their vehicles out of state, taking their sales tax with them. With more onerous energy restrictions being enacted by the state, Californians may opt for the gasoline powered vehicles that don't require relying on a charge from an unreliable power grid.

The Journal added "Car executives agree that it will take more than a full lineup of electric vehicles—and in some markets tax incentives—for consumers to overcome their current reluctance to buy the vehicles. Another crucial ingredient is a broadly available charging infrastructure."

"Neither mandates nor bans build successful markets," said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the auto-industry group Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which is calling on public authorities to do more to build charging stations and provide more incentives to consumers.


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