California is looking into banning internal combustion vehicles as a way to reduce air pollution and combat climate change.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Sept. 25, California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said Gov. Jerry Brown "has expressed an interest" in implementing the ban in California, though realistically the ban would not take effect for a long time.
Should California choose to take up the ban, they would not be alone. At least five major countries -- China, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. -- are working on phasing out internal combustion engines over the next several decades.
Nichols told Bloomberg that the earliest date a ban on selling gasoline-powered vehicles could take place would be at least a decade from now.
"There are people who believe, including [those] who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal-combustion cars by 2030. Some people say 2035, some people say 2040," she said. "It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it doesn’t appear to be out of the question."
A ban on selling vehicles powered with internal combustion engines would surely cause a stir throughout the auto industry. According to Bloomberg, 2 million cars were registered in California in 2016 alone. That's more than all of France, Italy or Spain.
Beyond the effect that the ban would have on companies, consumers would also have to be able to afford the cost of an electric-powered vehicle in order for the ban to work.
CNET reports that California already has some auto pollution-reducing measures in place. By 2050, the state hopes to have 80 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than in 1990.
"To reach the ambitious levels of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we have to pretty much replace all combustion with some form of renewable energy by 2040 or 2050," said Nichols. "We’re looking at that as a method of moving this discussion forward."
While eliminating the sale of gas-fueled vehicles would be one way to accomplish California's emission goals, auto industries would first have to expand their lineup of electric cars. CNET reports that though auto companies should not have a tough time meeting this goal, a single-state ban might present more problems.
California would also likely run into problems with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if they were to try to enact the ban in the current administration.
Since the passing of the 1970 Clean Air Act, California has had the ability to propose its own pollution laws with waivers from the EPA.
"We certainly wouldn’t expect to get a waiver for that from EPA," Nichols told Bloomberg. "I think we would be looking at using some of our other authorities to get to that result."
Nichols said that other ways of enacting a ban could include changing vehicle registration rules or preventing certain types of cars from accessing state highways.