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California Senators Urge President Biden to Set Date for the Phase Out of Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles in the U.S.

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【Summary】In a letter to President Biden, California senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are urging the White House to follow the state's lead in banning the sale of gas-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the U.S. will be zero-emission vehicles.

Eric Walz    Mar 22, 2021 3:50 PM PT
California Senators Urge President Biden to Set Date for the Phase Out of Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles in the U.S.
Traffic backs up on northbound 805 in San Diego. (Photo: John Gastaldo San Diego Union-Tribune)

Automakers General Motors and Volvo have already committed to phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. Others have made plans to electrify most of the future model lineups as the auto industry shifts towards electrification spearheaded by the rise of electric automaker Tesla, which has become the world's most valuable car company.

In the state of California, which has the highest number of EV sales in the U.S., Governor Gavin Newsom is seeking to ban the sale of internal combustion engine models by 2035. Now two California senators are urging President Biden to set a timeline to do the same on a national level.

In a letter to President Biden, Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are urging the White House to follow California's lead in banning the sale of gas-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the U.S. will be zero-emission vehicles. 

Padilla is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act and air pollution.  

In their letter to President Biden, the senators said the move is urgent in order to ensure that the United States remains a leader in clean technology, engineering, and manufacturing and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the U.S. be zero-emission vehicles.

California has been at the forefront in reducing vehicle emissions for decades In 1966, the state established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the nation. For years, vehicles sold in California were required to meet the state's more stringent emissions requirements, which exceeded that of the EPA. Over the years, many other states have adopted California's more strict vehicle emissions limits.

However in Sept 2019, the Trump administration threatened to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds citing poor air quality in the state. The Trump administration also formally revoked California's decades-long authority to set its own automobile emission standards, which are the strictest in the U.S. 

Senators Padilla and Feinstein have already pushed the White House to reinstate California's authority to set its own greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards. They also urged President Biden to set U.S. fuel economy standards to the maximum level possible in the interim. 

The Los Angeles region has some of the worst smog pollution in the country from the millions of motor vehicles, which is why senators say it's imperative that California be able to set vehicle emissions standards necessary to protect public health and welfare and address the threats of climate change. 

The transportation sector is responsible for around 50% of all of California's carbon pollution, including 80% of smog-forming pollutants and 95% of toxic diesel emissions, the Governor's office said when the executive order was signed in Sept 2020 seeking to ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles.

California's climate scientists estimate that the transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2035 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35%, including an 80% decrease in harmful oxides of nitrogen emissions from vehicles statewide.

But Senators Padilla and Feinstein are aiming for a similar change throughout the U.S. that would lead to a significant reduction in harmful greenhouse gases from the auto sector.

In the letter to President Biden, the two senators wrote, "In order to reach a 100 percent clean energy economy by midcentury, the United States needs to aggressively decarbonize the transportation sector to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe, not just in California but around the country."

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