New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill that effectively makes the sale of new gasoline-powered automobiles illegal within the state after 2035. On Wednesday, the state’s new governor took the brave step of copying California in deciding that all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks be zero-emission models within the next 14 years. Though she saw it as a totally original strategy necessary for stopping the horrors of global warming, which we now call climate change.
It’s also not technically her plan, as the State Assembly voted on the bill months before she took office with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor. It later passed the Senate in another party-dependent vote aided by the state’s Democratic majority.
The Empire State also has a deal with local agencies requiring they issue a zero-emissions vehicle market development plan before February of 2023. This is being done in conjunction with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which would like them to provide short and long-term strategies for ecologically friendly shipping and transit. They’ll also be required to submit investment proposals on how this will be funded and potential corporate partnerships that might make things easier.
“New York is implementing the nation’s most aggressive plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions affecting our climate and to reach our ambitious goals, we must reduce emissions from the transportation sector, currently the largest source of the state’s climate pollution,” Hochul stated in a release.
However, this doesn’t mean much if neighboring states don’t follow suit. New Jersey, which I am constantly surprised to learn has some of the most restrictive laws within our increasingly fettered union, is probably a given. The same is true for Massachusetts, which has forwarded similar proposals in the past. But Vermont and Pennsylvania might be less inclined to restrict the choices of their citizens, allowing New Yorkers to buy their gasoline-powered vehicles elsewhere and then register them in their home state.
Ultimately, New York expects to have all of its electricity coming from emission-free sources by 2040 and achieve an 85-percent reduction (from 1990 levels) in economy-wide emissions by 2050. But NYC emissions actually went up between 2017 and 2019, with COVID throwing a wrench into subsequent data. The good news is that vehicle emissions pitched down by 1 percent in 2019 and seem to have remained suppressed while fewer people were driving during the start of the pandemic. Sadly, much of the city’s data has been delayed or reframed to include metrics having nothing to do with air pollution — making it difficult to draw hard conclusions. At the very least, state-wide emissions appear to be dropping although not at a pace that seems likely to hit the aforementioned targets.
On Wednesday, Hochul attempted to up the ante by having the state Department of Environmental Conservation draft proposed regulation that could be imposed on the trucking industry. Rules again match what’s coming out of California and would require truck manufacturers to transition to clean, presumably electric, zero-emission vehicles broken down by vehicle weight classes starting with the 2025 model year.
Considering that the Californian rules New York is basing its strategy upon came by way of Governor Gavin Newsom signing an executive order, they’re bound to be unpopular with many on the East Coast. Newsom’s leadership has become so polarizing that he is now facing a recall election scheduled for later this month. While most of the claims reference his aggressive (and sometimes hypocritical) handling of the pandemic, there’s plenty of ire surrounding his similarly restrictive environmental policies. California recall frontrunner Larry Elder has even said he would attempt to void many of those regulatory restrictions should he win the special election.
There seems to be a wide rift between what residents want in California in terms of regulatory action and this is likely to be true in New York, too. Costal states with large, metropolitan hubs are pushing the limits of what the population is willing to accept and they’re hemorrhaging citizens as a result. New York and California (along with Illinois) were among the top three American states to lose the largest number of people between mid-2019 and mid-2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While we cannot attribute this entirely to regulations (housing prices remain a big issue), politics do appear to be playing a meaningful role.
Joe Biden’s popularity has similarly tanked in recent months (even before the Afghanistan debacle) and most of his environmental policies mimic what’s been forwarded in places like California. Each of his infrastructure proposals carved out extravagant levels of financial assistance for electric vehicles and he also signed an executive order aimed at making half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 EV. It’s something American citizens seem truly torn over, with the world’s largest automakers expressing broad support.
If you’ve ever read an article written by me, you know that I’m about to say that planned economies almost never work and we’re starting to see that manifesting in real time. But that doesn’t mean I’m entirely against the idea of trying to improve EV adoption by building more charging stations. Electric cars might be the worst option for a long road trip. But they seem idyllic for limited urban activities and New York might as well pull the trigger on its proposal to build 10,000 curbside charge points by 2030. But other aspects, like forcing all off-road vehicles to be EV only by 2035, seem totally nonsensical and require us to take on blind faith that alternative energy vehicles will be as good (if not better) than their internal combustion counterparts in a few years. While that may indeed be the case, it’s typically wise not to count the chickens before they’ve hatched.
If governments and the automotive industry are so hellbent on promoting EV adoption, they should ensure the vehicles in question are desirable and superior to their forebears in every conceivable way. The automobile didn’t defeat the horse because we hurriedly banned the latter, it won because it eventually became the superior mode of transportation. Why should we not give the electric car the same chance to prove itself, especially now that it appears to be within striking distance of that goal?
[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]
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