In a race to see who can introduce the most absurd piece of legislation in 2018, it appears San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting might claim victory.
Ting is the “genius” behind AB 1745, the Clean Cars 2040 Act.
Unfortunately, AB 1745 neither expands access to car wash facilities nor requires car wash operators to provide their customers with complementary trash bags.
Rather, the “clean cars” Ting refers to are “zero emission vehicles,” a narrowly defined group of vehicles that produce zero exhaust emissions of any pollutant or greenhouse gas.
You know, electric vehicles.
And, in its brief 165 words, the Clean Cars 2040 Act bans the DMV from registering any new vehicle as of January 1, 2040, unless it is a zero emission vehicle.
The bill is so narrowly defined that it would even ban new hybrids and plug-in vehicles, like the popular Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt.
There’s a word for these types of proposals: ridiculous.
California is making actual progress toward improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. AB 1745 would throw all of this progress away for no good reason.
The state is already the largest market for zero emission vehicles. But, even with generous taxpayer-funded rebates and access to carpool lanes, zero emission vehicles represented a measly 1.9 percent of the more than 2 million new passenger vehicles sold in California in 2016. Even more damning for the current state of zero emission vehicles, a UC Davis study found that many sales are to repeat customers, i.e., families that already have one in their garage.
Californians are not purchasing zero emission vehicles en masse. But rather than consider how to motivate them to purchase zero emission vehicles (an approach favored by the Brown administration), Mr. Ting thinks the best approach to achieving the state’s zero emissions vehicle goals is state command of the new car market.
It cannot be overstated: this is the wrong approach.
California’s environmental regulations have continually pushed automobile manufacturers to develop more efficient internal combustion engine technologies. The result has been vehicles that emit less and go further.
As more of these vehicles are on the roads, they are decreasing emissions and moving the state toward its policy objectives.
AB 1745 would run rampage through this progress. It discourages continued innovation and increased efficiency from internal combustion engine vehicles and provides absolutely no semblance of a plan for how to increase zero-emission vehicle sales by 98.1 percent.
As one group put it, AB 1745 proclaims, “Ban it, and they will come.”
California already has the most aggressive greenhouse gas and air quality emissions reductions in the world. In 2016, the state adopted a greenhouse gas emissions target to reduce emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. And, in 2017, the Legislature extended the state’s signature Cap-and-Trade program as the mechanism for achieving its emissions reductions goals.
There is no question that these policies are responsible for the increased energy costs paid by California families and businesses. But at the same time, they are actually working at moving the state towards its emissions goals.
California taxpayers have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to encourage the purchase of more efficient internal combustion engine vehicles, but AB 1745’s focus on 22 years from now ignores opportunities we have to continue making progress today.
In the Central Valley, the “Drive Clean in the San Joaquin” program provides grants to eligible residents to replace old, high-polluting vehicles with newer, cleaner cars. And, organizations like Valley Clean Air Now use state funds for “Tune In & Tune Up,” an outreach program that helps decrease vehicle emissions by subsidizing costly smog repairs.
Programs like these are the best way to make progress on reducing vehicle emissions in California. Because at the end of the day, the number of new cars purchased in a year pales in comparison to the number of vehicles already on the road.
In 2016, there were more than 14.5 million vehicles registered in California. While AB 1745 focuses on new vehicle registration, it does absolutely nothing to identify opportunities to improve air quality and emissions improvements in the existing fleet.
The opposition to AB 1745 is heating up, led by organizations and associations that understand what a disaster the bill would be for California families, the economy and environment.
Kern County is well-represented in that coalition, with local groups like the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, BizFed Central Valley, Kern EDC and Associated Builders and Contractors already on board.
The bill’s first hearing before the Assembly Transportation Committee is scheduled for April 16. We can count on our local Assemblyman Vince Fong, vice chair of the Transportation Committee, to fight for common sense and attempt to stop AB 1745. But, it’s going to take more than one Republican Assembly member to prevent this wreck from happening.
Now is the time to make sure that the committee chair, Assemblyman Jim Frazier, and committee members understand how poor of policy AB 1745 would be.
Technology and innovation are inching us toward greater electrification of our vehicles. I doubt there’s one of us who philosophically opposes better air quality, increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions.
It’s half-baked ideas like AB 1745 that are the problem, and that’s why this bill needs to meet its end.
The sooner, the better.
Contributing columnist Justin Salters writes weekly on politics and current events; the views expressed are his own. Reach him on Twitter @justinsalters, or email him your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.