California’s new utopian dream of banning new, gas-powered cars is symptomatic of a brand of progressive politics that is good for messianic rhetoric but dreadful for the lives and pocketbooks of everyday citizens. Progressives are oratorically concerned about income inequality, yet they aggressively implement policies whose consequences make it far worse.
Last week, the state of California continued its needless but never-ending war against working-class citizens.
Keep in mind: California has already seen the highest or second highest gas prices in the entire country, depending on the week. California has already experienced a severe housing shortage and is currently building 110,000 fewer housing units than what is needed to keep up with demand (and has continued to prodigiously do so for 30 years). California has already undergone energy shortages — officials last May candidly revealed they had doubts that the state’s electric grid had the capacity to keep the lights on during the summer months. California is already in the clutches of a cataclysmic, Biblical-level drought. And, finally, California already has sky-high taxes, byzantine regulatory practices, and is generally considered to be one of the most hostile business climates in the country.
But don’t worry. California is trying its best to make things even worse for working-class citizens under the auspices of fighting climate change by stealthily enlisting 39 million citizens as obedient eco-warriors. Last week, California released a timetable for banning new gas-powered cars — that are, to use the sanctimonious parlance of the Left, deeply “problematic” — by 2036.
Though, if you read the fine print, you’ll see that the bureaucratic zaniness quickly jumps off the regulatory page. If car manufacturers want access to the California auto market, then in just four years’ time 35% of cars and light trucks will have to be electric. Sounds great until one realizes that only 16% of the California car market today is populated with electric vehicles; thus, to meet this hefty goal, California would have to experience a meteoric 119% increase in electric vehicle demand in just four years.
Keep in mind that the average electric vehicle now sells for roughly $66,000, an increase, by the way, of 13% from just a year ago — not exactly an affordable option for working-class families, even with the 1.8 billion in California rebates and incentives. Add in the $7,500 tax credit from Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, and there is a good chance electric cars will continue to be out of reach for middle-income California families. As Joel Kotkin in National Review has rightly observed, “Like many other current green policies, the shift to electric cars will also threaten the living standards of working- and middle-class households. As the prices of rare metals and computer chips surge, the prices of EVs have grown.”
But even if Californians were to empty their pocketbooks with a righteous sense of environmental euphoria and suddenly flock to electric vehicles, there are pesky laws of economics, scarcity, and infrastructure development that stand in the way. California’s plan has been labeled “audacious” by The New York Times. The word “foolhardy,” or even “hubris,” is more appropriate.
To find out why, ask some very basic questions:
Where are these millions of electric cars going to be charged?
If eight million new electric vehicles are going to be on the road by 2030, then almost 1.2 million new charging stations will need to be installed and functional in less than half a decade, a state report found. How many charging stations currently meet these criteria today? A mere 70,000. And the ones that do exist often do not work. According to research firm J.D. Power, one of the primary reasons consumers currently eschew electric vehicles is the lack of availability and reliability of current charging stations. And what about people who park on the street? Do we ask them to sell their cars and get on the city bus forever?
Where are the minerals and materials to make these millions of new electric engines going to come from?
One of the chief components of EV batteries is lithium. China controls at least two-thirds of the world’s capacity for refining lithium, and it produces 75% of all lithium-ion batteries. If the aim is to recalibrate the American economy from a historic dependence on Middle Eastern OPEC oil to Chinese-made lithium batteries instead, California is certainly doing its part. Consider that over 98% of permanent magnets come from China. While the Golden State’s earnest hope is for automobile companies to develop economies of scale in the mass production of electric cars and light trucks, thus bringing down costs and boosting affordability, the more likely scenario is that skyrocketing prices of rare earth metals will make them even more of an extravagance. Prices of lithium carbonate have risen almost tenfold this year, and cobalt is up 150%.
Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom’s presidential ambitions certainly play a role in this bonanza of environmental largesse. And for what it is worth, Newsom seems to gleefully play the role of a Green New Deal cowboy, happily herding millions of progressive Californians into his laboratory of public policy experimentation. And why wouldn’t he? California voters rarely seem to balk at the scope and cost of his ambitions, overwhelmingly rejecting the attempt to recall him last fall, despite the absolute senselessness of his sprawling and harmful COVID policies. He is certain to win re-election by a large margin in just a few months.
However, Newsom would be wise to remember that while voters outside of the Golden State don’t mind being nudged — conservatives like solar panels and clean air as much as West Coast cosmopolitans — they don’t particularly appreciate being hastily shoved in a direction they cannot afford. Public policy by executive fiat that is rooted in ideological utopianism, unmoored from the laws of economics and prudence, might make for great rhetoric.
Mr. Newsom will surely claim to be saving humanity and Mother Earth with his Green policies. But it is also making Californians leave their state in droves. Nothing is more of an indictment of one’s tenure as a governor than the fact that no one wants to live in the state he has had free-reign to govern. “I’ll do for America what I did for California.”
No thanks. No one can afford it.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of the recently-released Amazon best-selling book Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.