Originally posted on EVANNEX.
By Charles Morris
Just four years ago, the end of the Oil Age was considered a wild dream. Today, it is official policy in a growing number of countries, states, cities and boards of directors around the world.
Certainly, there are good reasons to be skeptical that the phase-outs and proposed bans will indeed proceed as planned. However, a major conceptual barrier has been crossed – the idea can no longer be dismissed as the delusions of green-eyed lunatics.
In 2017, a bill to phase out the sale of gas burners from 2040 was introduced in the California legislature. Matthew Metz, co-executive director of rights group Coltura, published an op-ed calling on Washington state to follow suit. “Crazy” was one of the nicest words used in the media response that followed. Mr. Metz was called loony, “moonbatty” and (of course) a commie. “I would say the reaction is about 99.9% negative,” he said. Seattle weather. “But people will get over it.”
How crazy was the idea? In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. In March 2021, Washington state upped the ante, proposing to phase out stinks by 2030. Massachusetts and New York have also joined the move to quit oil.
As NPR reports, a lot has changed in four years, and “what was once a fringe idea is now part of a global trend.” Tesla has become the world’s most valuable automaker, and its success has sparked a mad race from old brands to accelerate their own electrification programs (or at least to try to convince Wall Street that they do). Some of them have announced their own deadlines to end the production of fossil-fueled cars.
“More and more countries are announcing targets to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles nationally,” said Sandra Wappelhorst of the International Council for Clean Transport. NPR.
At last count, some 25 countries and several US states announced plans to end the sale of petroleum burners. The European Union is considering a zero-emission mandate that could begin to weigh around 2035. World capitals like Amsterdam, London and Oslo have proposed banning gas burners in city centers. Many urban transport agencies have set dates to convert their public transport fleets to all-electric. Automakers who have announced plans to cut production of ICE vehicles include GM, Honda, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Volvo.
Readers, we are skeptical. As far as we know, none of the advertised “bans” are in fact established law. Most are “proposals” and some are executive orders that could easily be overturned by a future administration. Some headline-grabbing announcements, such as COP26’s non-binding suggestion that all vehicles be zero-emission by 2040, or President Joe Biden’s call for 50% of sales to be made in the United States. be electric vehicles by 2030, are little more than statements that “it would be nice if…. Auto manufacturers’ proposals invariably include silly phrases like “if market conditions allow”.
In addition, the deadlines attached to most of these proposals are so remote that no action will be required in the coming years (except to mandate consultants to prepare long studies and market assessments at taxpayer expense). The policymakers who crafted all of these vague proposals will be sacked and out on the golf course long before their successors have to figure out how to implement them.
However, that does not mean that all of these propositions are meaningless. Some automakers seem to be taking them seriously, as is the oil industry, judging by the ever-increasing stream of anti-EV FUDs that have been swarming our inboxes lately. And in a few years, we might be surprised to find that some of these jurisdictions (California and Amsterdam are probably candidates) remain very serious about ending fossil vehicle sales on time.
Perceptions matter, and right now public perception is coming to the idea that the oil age is drawing to a close. The demise of gasoline-powered cars may be quite a long way off in the future, and it may turn out to be a complicated affair, but it is no longer a crazy idea.
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