Do Virginia residents want to be governed by California bureaucrats and their ban on gas-powered vehicles? That’s one big question to be decided by next month’s General Assembly election.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his climate regulators in Sacramento have declared war on the internal-combustion engine. Through their “Advanced Clean Car” rules and “Zero-Emission Vehicle” mandates, they have ordered the auto industry to phase out of production the gas-powered cars, SUVs, and pickups that American families prefer to buy and drive.
California’s goal is to require that all new vehicle sales will be 100% electric by 2035.
Unfortunately, what began in Sacramento isn’t confined to the Golden State. California’s car ban has come to Virginia.
As part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s aggressive climate agenda, the Virginia General Assembly voted in 2021 to apply California’s vehicle standards and EV mandates to the commonwealth. As a result, Virginians’ choice of new cars and trucks will now be dictated by California’s regulatory policies.
Although some people prefer electric vehicles, particularly as a second car for urban commuting, they are certainly not the right option for everyone. Rather than looking to Sacramento’s radical climate policies to set the agenda, Richmond should reassert itself and preserve the freedom that would allow people to choose an EV when they decide it’s the right option for their families.
After all, EVs are expensive—beyond the price range for many—and they have their drawbacks: limited range (especially in cold weather), limited towing capacity, and limited availability of charging stations. No one should be forced to buy them.
If Virginia fails to reverse course, the price of all new cars and trucks will rise significantly, and the most popular gas-powered models will start disappearing from dealerships altogether. Inevitably, more people will be stuck driving older vehicles year after year. Highway deaths and serious injuries will rise because older cars are much less safe in an accident, and air quality in Virginia will suffer as the fleet of automobiles on the road ages.
Worse still, as EVs begin to dominate new car sales, the strain on Virginia’s already vulnerable electricity grid will grow, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost in the automotive sector, and America will become even more dependent on China for the processed minerals and other critical inputs needed to build EVs.
Meanwhile, the complete phaseout of all gas-powered cars and trucks that California is aiming to achieve will have no meaningful effect on global temperatures. That’s because China—the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide—continues to build new coal-fired power plants at a breakneck pace and keeps increasing its annual carbon emissions, including in order to generate the power needed to manufacture millions of EV batteries for the U.S. market.
These are just some of the reasons why Gov. Glenn Youngkin is urging the General Assembly to repeal the 2021 “Clean Cars” law that puts Virginia under the thumb of California’s regulators.
In January, the Republicans in the House of Delegates passed the repeal legislation in a party-line vote (52-48). But the measure failed even to reach the floor in the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate, where it died in the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee—again on a straight party-line vote (8-7).
Despite this legislative failure, polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of Virginia residents are happy with their gas-powered cars and with the personal freedom those cars make possible. They don’t want to sacrifice that freedom to the green dreams of California regulators.
With the General Assembly election approaching on Nov. 7, Virginians can make it clear to their elected representatives that the residents of the commonwealth, not California regulators, rule the roads in the Old Dominion.
This piece originally appeared in the Virginian-Pilot