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California’s Ill-Conceived EV ‘Leadership’

The state just announced its plans for an all-electric vehicle future, but its electrical grid can’t even handle the present.

There they go again, those crazy self-important Californians — making an outlandish environmental move that the rest of us in the Other 49 will be expected to follow.

Yesterday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB for short — get it?) voted to phase out sales of gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. Knock yourselves out, we say, but good luck getting the state’s already notoriously overburdened electrical grid to accommodate that pipe dream. Indeed, experts say significant investments in grid infrastructure will need to happen to make this a reality.

Here’s one of those experts, Jack Brouwer, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California Irvine: “The grid does not currently have the capability to add millions of battery electric or even fuel-cell electric vehicles today. So, we have some time to make reasonable investments in the grid to enable this to actually happen and to happen well.”

We’re not sure what “reasonable” means, but as SoCal Edison spokesperson Paul Griffo notes, his company “is investing over $5 billion in modernizing the grid, so that we can handle the additional needs of our customers in the future, including electric cars.”

The new rule will require all new cars sold in the Brownout State Golden State by 2035 to be free of greenhouse gas emissions — you know, like the carbon dioxide humans and animals expire with every breath. It also sets interim targets, requiring that 35% of new passenger vehicles sold by 2026 produce zero emissions, a number that jumps to 68% by 2030.

As if on cue, there was California Governor and French Laundry aficionado Gavin Newsom, crowing about his state’s (ahem) leadership: “CA continues to lead the way,” he tweeted atop the following quote from The New York Times: “Experts said the new California rule, in both its stringency and reach, could stand alongside the Washington law as one of the world’s most important climate change policies.”

Whoa, Washington? As it turns out, that state had in 2020 passed a law requiring it to adopt California’s rules for zero-emission vehicles, which of course have long been the most stringent (read: onerous and idiotic) in the nation. As Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted, “This is a critical milestone in our climate fight. Washington set in law a goal for all new car sales to be zero emissions by 2030 and we’re ready to adopt California’s regs by end of this year.”

Will other states follow where California goes? That’s been the case traditionally, and it appears to be the case here, too: More than one-third of the 50 states may soon lemming-up and ban the sale of new gas-powered cars. Last year, our Thomas Gallatin noted that Joe Biden signed an order “setting 2030 as the target date for 50% of all new vehicles sold to be electric or carbon free.”

As for California’s “leadership,” we wonder what sort of leadership Newsom is talking about. “Roughly a quarter of the nation’s homeless live in California,” laments historian and Central Valley farmer Victor Davis Hanson. “So do about one-third of all Americans on public assistance. Approximately one-fifth of the state’s population lives below the poverty line. About one-third of Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for low-income residents.”

Here we could also mention the state’s “leadership” in education, where it ranks dead last. Or its “leadership” in high-speed rail, which has long been a bad joke and whose cost estimates run into the hundreds of billions. Or its “leadership” in crime and tent cities and poop patrols and the like. But then it’d look like we were piling on.

There is one other area of “leadership” left for California: The first state to adopt the Cuba model of a burgeoning auto market for old, broken-down gas-powered cars. There will be a grossly distorted market for these vehicles once new ones are outlawed.

This announcement didn’t come out of thin air, and California wasn’t alone in its vision of an all-electrical vehicle future. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

Since Mr. Newsom first floated the plan in 2020, many major car makers have said they are working toward an eventual phaseout of gas-powered vehicles, with varying timelines and regional differences. GM, the largest auto maker by U.S. sales, in late 2020 pegged the same 2035 target for ending sales of nearly all of its internal-combustion vehicles. GM on Thursday reiterated that plan and said it shares California’s vision of an all-electric future.

EV’s are an encroachment on our freedom, of course, and not just because of the maddening range limitations. Think about how much easier it would be for a government to control a populace driving only electrics. The state can shut off the electricity a lot more easily than it can close down privately run gas stations.

So here we are, with the nation’s largest and weirdest and most far-left state pointing the way to an EV future. But, as our Nate Jackson recently pointed out, this future comes with its own set of serious problems: “In order for Americans and our economy to thrive, we need fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. … There’s no problem with an ‘all of the above’ choice for energy and cars. There is a huge problem with picking winners and losers because, ultimately, that just means government wins and you lose.”

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