California’s gas-car phaseout brings turmoil to mom-and-pop gas stations
The first sign that California is getting serious about its gas-car phaseout came in 2001 when the Legislature, in a move that had been years in the making, adopted the goal of getting 60 percent of vehicles on the road burning gasoline by the year 2030. It’s now less than 10 years later, and California has surpassed 50 percent, as of January 3, 2008, according to the California Energy Commission.
Since then, it has gone on to enact another law requiring automakers to add airbags to all cars beginning in model year 2009 (with an exemption for safety net programs like rental car companies). The next phase would be to get 65 percent of all vehicles on the road in a year, with the aim of getting 100 percent by 2040.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. California had been hoping to reach 100 percent by 2016. In 2003, when the legislature adopted the first measure and then passed its second and third, it hoped to reduce emissions by 25 million tons a year by the year 2030.
By 2007 and 2008, as automakers have gone from creating models that emit less pollution to those with stronger emissions, drivers have been getting better gas mileage. In January of this year, the California Air Resources Board said that from 2006 to 2008, vehicle fuel efficiency grew by three-tenths of a percent and emissions by two-tenths of a percent. But that’s not a good enough for California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has asked for, and received, a commitment from lawmakers to double the state’s fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles a gallon by 2016.
And that’s going to be tough. By 2020, California’s current fleet-wide average is 23 MPG, while the federal average is 35.4, and the average in the Washington, D.C.-D.C. area is 30.4. The average in the U.S. as a whole is 25.8.
So why now? The reasons for the shift away from gasoline are many and complex, ranging from the way people are driving, to rising oil prices, to changes in technology, to global economics, to the need to grow the economy faster than the rest of the world.
So why now? The