An executive order issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom bans sales of new fossil-fueled vehicles by 2035. It is no surprise that this executive order emanated from California. Incentives — tax credits and rebates — failed to get the desired results, so the state turns to mandates to impose its will on citizens.
Even with $12,000 in state and federal incentives, electric vehicles are too expensive for most middle-class consumers. Case in point, General Motors recently unveiled its new all-electric Hummer with a list price of $112,595 (Wall Street Journal editorial “Target: Your Gas Car,” Oct. 21). Electric vehicle sales in California last year amounted to a paltry 6.2% of new vehicle sales; clearly unacceptable numbers for California’s big green ambitions.
California is not alone in its measures to transform consumers’ transportation options. A new bill introduced by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and four other Democrats would mandate that 50% of all new cars sold in 2025, and 100% of all new cars sold in 2035, be electric. Last year a mere 2% of all car sales in the U.S. were EVs. This proposal is a heavy lift.
One of the impediments to higher volumes of EV production is battery performance. Battery technology is getting better, but still falls short of the performance most Americans expect. Lithium is in relatively short supply. An effort by Tesla’s Elon Musk to develop a lithium production plant in Nevada had been opposed by environmental groups for over ten years (see Wall Street Journal editorial “California’s Electric Utopia,” Sept. 25).
Most recently, demonstrating how bad ideas travel at the speed of light, the United Kingdom is weighing in with its own proposal. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to end sales of all new gasoline and diesel automobiles by 2030, five years earlier than the California Executive Order and the Merkley nationwide proposal (see Associated Press “U.K. to Ban Gasoline Car Sales by 2030 as part of Green Plan,” Nov. 18). Johnson’s proposal does come with a caveat that would allow hybrids to be sold through 2035 — a big concession, I guess.
Given these efforts to push electric vehicles, more such mandates and proposals are sure to come along. But how does the auto industry move to satisfy these mandates, and how do our fellow citizens respond? Most consumers in the U.S. can’t afford EVs at the current list price. “Range anxiety” is another obstacle to acceptance. And recharging times are unacceptable to most U.S. consumers, who are accustomed to a five-minute gas station refueling stop before continuing their journeys.
There are many challenges to implementing these proposed mandates, including technical obstacles and raw materials limitations. Social norms and consumer habits will need to change.
As consumers we need to pay attention to these proposals. Carbon reduction legislation by the Northeastern states has been adopted quietly and without much push back from consumers. We need to ensure that future decisions are not made by just a few special interest groups in smoke-filled back rooms. So, pay attention and stay tuned. — Thomas J. Tubman
Thomas J. Tubman is executive director of the American Energy Coalition, which promotes the benefits of oil heat in comparison to other energy sources, particularly natural gas.