Back in September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that will require all new cars sold within the state to be zero-emissions compliant or fully electric vehicles by the year 2035. This decision reverberated through the automotive community, as many believed such a decision from the nation’s most populous state could influence the rest of the country. And while critics of the executive order labeled it as posturing, California’s two senators don’t agree. According to a new report from Reuters, Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein have called on President Joe Biden to adopt a similar timeline on the federal level.
The news comes by way of a letter that was sent to President Joe Biden by the Senators, which has been seen by Reuters. The letter asks President Biden to reinstate the Golden State’s ability to set their own emissions standards, an ability that the Trump Administration limited. Furthermore, the letter urges the President “to follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.”
“We believe the national baseline should, at an absolute minimum, be built around the technical lead set by companies that voluntarily advanced their agreements with California,” Padilla and Feinstein wrote according to Reuters. “California and other states need a strong federal partner.”
While California doesn’t technically hold the authority to set their own emissions standards at this time, that hasn’t stopped their efforts. In fact, several automakers, including Ford and VW, have agreed to comply with the stricter regulations suggested by the state. 14 other states have also signed on, as well the District of Columbia. These states account for over 40 percent of the total population within the United States. That is by no means a small portion.
We know that the Biden Administration has plans to help spur on the adoption of electric vehicles here in the U.S., as has been made clear since early in his campaign. The President has made plans to transition the federal fleet to EVs, and has ordered a study into the supply chain related to materials needed to build these machines. That said, not every automaker is on-board with this plan. General Motors for example is part of a coalition of automakers lobbying the President to maintain looser emissions regulations than those put in place by the Obama administration. While these companies realize they won’t be able to keep the Trump Era figures, they don’t want to see regulations swing too far the other way. Biden is working with these companies to strike some sort of balance, with an answer expected to be made public on Earth Day.
Should the Biden Administration side with Senators Padilla and Feinstein, the auto industry in the U.S. will be forced to transition almost immediately. Regulations like this have already taken effect in other parts of the world, but remain tenuous here in North America. Part of the hesitation here in the states comes from genuine concerns related to the necessary infrastructure changes, as well as the environmental and humanitarian ramifications related to producing massive amounts of electric vehicles. And while there is no denying that an electric vehicle will pollute less over the course of its life than a traditional ICE vehicle, personal transportation is far from the main source of these nasty pollutants. Industries like mining, shipping, and air travel wreak havoc on the environment, and face little to no scrutiny in their practices.
We’ll have to wait and see what President Joe Biden chooses to do here, but chances are things won’t necessarily go as far as the Californians are hoping. We won’t be surprised to see the President give the state back their right to set their own emissions standards, but his current talks with automakers suggests that he doesn’t aim to completely turn the industry on its head. These are challenging questions to deal with on many different levels, and ones that a simple date on a calendar aren’t going to fix. We need more investment into alternatives outside of just electric vehicles, as well as how we handle pollution on a global scale. Consumers can’t foot the entire bill when massive companies are allowed to continue doing more damage than ever before in the name of profit. What change will that really bring?