Fiddling while California burns. With the Golden State ravaged by wildfires, rolling blackouts and coronavirus shutdowns, its leadership is now trying to eliminate gas-powered automobiles. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed an executive order calling for all new auto sales in California to be "zero emissions" cars by 2035. Existing gas-powered cars could still be driven and sold, but the goal is to "phase out" gasoline cars altogether.
The order raises a number of questions. First, does a governor even have the right to ban the sale of certain items or products via executive action, without approval of the state legislature? Second, if California moves to mostly or all electric-powered cars, where and how will the state get the energy necessary to charge and power all of those cars? (see rolling blackouts, above) And most importantly, what would this mean for the automobile industry, when California alone makes up 11% of the total U.S. auto market?
The order could also have a major impact on Texas, since it would result in reduced demand for gasoline and oil. Phil Barnett, chief of Barnett Energy in Texas, calls Newsom's order a misguided political move. "California has historically been one of the biggest car markets in the world, so this is just throwing things against the wall to see what will stick," he tells KTRH.
Barnett also calls it an example of glaring hypocrisy. "The media won't show it, but when Gavin Newsom moves around, he's got a motorcade like the president....and every one of those vehicles are gas-burning Suburbans," he says.
And if you think such a crazy notion could never take hold in Texas, think again. Austin (where else?) is pushing a similar plan to eliminate gas-powered cars and trucks. "Wanting to preserve and protect the environment is noble, and I embrace that," says Barnett. "But the pathways they take to do it historically are not effective."
Ultimately, Barnett thinks Newsom's order is just another California dream. "By executive fiat, I don't think it will ever come to fruition," he says. "And even if it did, I don't think it would make a significant difference for the next hundred years."