On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order for California to phase out new gasoline-fueled cars by 2035. The mandate is the first of the United States to require citizens to purchase 100 percent zero-emission vehicles. And since California is the most populous state in the U.S., with a $3.2 trillion gross state product, such an order could set a sustainable precedent for the rest of the country as the world faces a historic moment that climatologists are calling “apocalyptic.”
Newsom’s order calls for the California Air Resources Board to initiate and regulate the mandate by stopping dealerships from releasing new gas-powered cars in the next 15 years. Within 25 years, he hopes that heavy-duty trucks will also be zero-waste. (California isn’t planning to stop anyone from buying or selling used gas-powered cars.) As the Los Angeles Times points out, the California Air Resources Board will have to get to work for both of these goals to truly come to fruition in such a tight timeframe.
“In the next 15 years, we will eliminate in the state of California the sales of internal combustion engines.” —California Gov. Gavin Newsom
Newsom seems confident that his 25-year plan for California to become a zero-waste state will benefit not only Americans, but the world at large. “In the next 15 years, we will eliminate in the state of California the sales of internal combustion engines,” said Newsom at a news conference in Sacramento. “If you want to reduce asthma, if you want to mitigate the rise of sea level, if you want to mitigate the loss of ice sheets around the globe, then this is a policy for other states to follow.”
Indeed: Phasing out gas-powered cars could make a major difference in how human activity interferes with the natural world. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that transportation including our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes accounts for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In excess, GHG causes a domino effect that makes the planet too warm and causes calamitous storms, water stress, pollution, and—you guessed it—devastating wildfires. (California is experiencing its worst wildfire season in recorded history, so this stat likely hits close to home as Newsom encourages a shift to zero-waste driving.)
Along with banning gas-powered automobiles from the future of California, Newsom also called for the state legislature to end fracking: a highly-controversial method of mining natural gas or petroleum that involves injecting fluid into shale beds at high pressure to expose the resources beneath. Critics of the method point out that it involves huge amounts of water, causes earth tremors, and leaks carcinogenic chemicals into nearby water sources.
A ban on fracking by the California legislature wouldn’t go unnoticed by the White House. In 2019, the Trump Administration announced its plans to use one million acres of Golden State land for fracking purposes (protests across California indicated that many were not in favor of such a move).
No matter what, both of Newsom’s recent announcements are sure to spark conversations about climate change—and climate change denial—in the coming weeks, months, and years.