Governor Newsom's electric car plan fails to address needs of Californians
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
California is no stranger to the effects of climate change. In the past few years, we have seen wildfires burn through our neighborhoods and forestland and have been forced to stay in our homes for days at a time due to the poor air quality caused by the smoke. There is no doubt that this issue is serious and that something needs to be done. However, those in charge of making these decisions should listen to their constituents and make changes that are realistic for people to follow.
In the past month, California's Governor, Gavin Newsom, released an executive order to curb climate change. This order states that by 2035, all new passenger cars and trucks sold in California must be zero-emission. It also says that creating passenger rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will be another focus in California's pursuit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants.
While this order is well-intentioned, it is also very ambitious, which puts into question its practicality and if this is an attainable goal for Californians. As a state, California relies heavily on cars to get around, which is why this plan could either be really great for the environment or extremely difficult to accomplish.
Electric vehicles currently make up a mere 6% of new car sales. With Newsom's plan, this number will rise to 100% in the next 15 years, when he will no longer be in office. However, does owning an electric vehicle fit the lifestyle of every Californian? What if they live in an apartment where they may not have access to a charging station?
Dialogue between Newsom and his constituents to see their point of view on this order's feasibility is necessary to create sound policy, but that is not evident here. It is also essential to consider that California residents are already experiencing rolling blackouts. Having enough energy to support such a massive increase in electric vehicles may worry some residents.
A national survey found that about 31% of Americans that currently own gas-powered vehicles would purchase an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle if it were the same price. This is not a small number, and it could rise in the next 15 years. However, Newsom shows a lack of research in his public's needs in this order as he does not ensure affordable options for low-income families.
Newsom makes a point to mention how the effects of climate change often have a disproportionate impact on our disadvantaged communities of color, which is an issue that must be addressed in any discussion of climate change. However, it is reasonable to wonder if this plan truly considers the needs of these communities. With everything going on right now with a pandemic and wildfires blazing through the state, this order seems a bit out of touch with the needs of Newsom's constituents.
It certainly should not go unrecognized that Newsom and other legislators in California are striving to be leaders in progressive policy. This plan reflects their intentions of creating a greener and environmentally conscious future for the state. However, this should be done in such a way that we can all move forward together and not leave anyone behind, and when policies like this are created, our unity is inhibited.
Californians are not opposed to making this shift, but they should be part of the discussion as to whether or not a 15-year timeline is feasible. It is essential for leaders and legislators to be in touch with their publics and to do the research on what is attainable for them to ensure that realistic and progressive policy goals can be met.
By Emma Law
Emma is a senior at San Diego State University studying Public Relations. She spent the last two summers working as an intern for Summit Strategy Group, LLC. After graduation, she plans to move back to San Francisco to pursue a career in Public Relations.