California is at it again. This time, the state Air Resources Board has issued a regulation banning the sale of new gasoline- or diesel-powered cars in just 12 years. Golden State motorists would find their options limited to cars propelled by electricity or hydrogen fuel cells.
California can do this only if President Joe Biden grants Sacramento a waiver from the Clean Air Act, allowing the state to impose even stricter mileage standards and auto emissions requirements than those imposed by the federal Department of Transportation.
It’s a huge mistake. Not only does the new regulation bar reasonable choices in the nation’s largest car market, it also makes us more dependent on China. And a similar requirement could be coming to a state near you. The New York Times reports that, if California’s law takes effect, another dozen states could adopt similar policies this year.
The state’s drive to outlaw the internal combustion engine is fueled by its concern about global warming. But this ignores the fact that, even if they eliminated all carbon emissions in the entire country—from every source: industrial, transportation and agriculture—average global temperatures would fall, at most, by less than .2 degrees Celsius … by the end of this century!
Fecklessness aside, government bureaucrats have no business telling you what car you can or cannot buy. While some people want and can afford EVs, they just will not work for everyone. Despite recent improvements, they still lack the range and convenience of conventional vehicles. A test by AAA revealed that driving in 20 degree weather with the heater on reduces an EV’s range by about 40%.
And that’s when the vehicle is fully charged. But manufacturers recommend supercharging up to only 80-90% capacity (and not going below 20%) to battle battery degradation.
Given EVs’ limited range and their need for frequent recharging, road trips can be disastrous. Car & Driver notes, “unlike a gas-powered vehicle, an EV's consumption increases dramatically as speeds rise…. Unlike gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, which regularly beat their EPA ratings in our highway testing, only three of the 33 EVs that we've run range tests on to date have exceeded their EPA highway and combined figures.”
Range is particularly important because fueling up an EV is not a five-minute stop at a ubiquitous gas station. At best, it takes 30 minutes to get a decent charge with “don’t use it too often” supercharging. Non-supercharging takes hours.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Wolfe wrote about her four-day road trip in an EV. It took her three hours at one charger to get 30 miles of range. She concluded the article talking about filing up her own car and inhaling at the gas station, remarking that “[f]umes never smelled so sweet.” At least she still has a choice of what car she wants, unlike future Californians.
Towing with an EV is even more hopeless. Car and Driver tested the new electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup. It could only go 100 miles towing a trailer. MotorTrend couldn’t make it even that far.
California is not content to stop at light-duty vehicles, either. Those who haul goods or people, cut lawns or show houses will be disproportionately impacted. (California has also indicated it wants to eliminate gas-powered lawn equipment, further sticking it to landscapers.) Others impacted by eliminating liquid fuels in favor of electricity? The more than 11 million people who work in jobs supported by the oil and gas industry and America’s farmers who make the raw material for biofuels. Without the vehicle-fuel market, farm income would decrease by $ 27 billion according to a study by the Ag Retailers of America.
Putting all our eggs into the EV basket would also dramatically increase our reliance on China—the same country that is building three times more coal plants than the rest of the world combined, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
While the United States was very recently a net exporter of petroleum and has the largest oil refining industry in the world, nearly everything we need for EVs goes through China. The International Energy Agency, which supports lowering emissions, has noted that China refines 35% of the nickel, 40% of copper, 50 to 70% of lithium and cobalt, and 90% for rare earth elements. Graphite is produced exclusively in China.
Do we really want to put all our transportation eggs in a basket made in China?
Biden should deny California’s waiver. If he doesn’t, then more thoughtful leaders in Congress should block the waiver legislatively, thereby preserving consumer choice for California motorists and keeping America from becoming even more dependent on Chinese goods.