A gas powered car covered in a layer of dust. Demand for gas vehicles may decrease as states start to transition towards electric car sales. Photo by Francesca Silverstein.

The state of California is working to ban the sale of new light-duty gas-powered vehicles by 2035 with the passage of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule, by the California Air Resources Board on August 25, 2022. Beginning in 2035, all new cars sold in California must be zero-emission, or in other words, electric. Oregon is looking to adopt this rule as well by the end of 2022.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC), the policymaking board at Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), will decide by the end of December whether or not Oregon will adopt the Advanced Clean Cars II rule. The official rule package, including examinations of the fiscal, economic, racial, and land impacts of the rule, were released to the public the week of September 25. Public comments will be accepted through the end of October, and will then be consolidated, summarized, and responded to by DEQ before being given to the EQC to help inform their decision. 

The reasoning for the short timeline is that under the federal Clean Air Act, states are required to give manufacturers two years notice on mandatory manufacturing changes. The Advanced Clean Cars II rule not only puts the 2035 ban in place, but requires manufacturers to produce a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) that increases each year, eventually reaching 100% in 2035. By 2026, ZEVs would have to be 35% of manufacturers’ sales, and development of more ZEVs would need to begin even earlier, hence the two years heads up. 

Rachel Sakata, Senior Air Quality Planner at DEQ, describes the Advanced Clean Cars II rule as a critical element in combating climate change. As the transportation sector currently contributes around 40% of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions, the transition to ZEVs will have a massive impact. Sakata specifically hopes for improvement in air quality, listing Oregon’s chronic haze, wildfires, and increasingly hot summers as current concerns.

Critics of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule don’t usually disagree with these goals; they mainly question the unintentional impacts of the rule, especially on low-income families. Sakata admits that “not everyone is going to be able to afford new electric vehicles,” but adds that by requiring manufacturers to develop more ZEVs, there will be more focus on making them cost effective and accessible. She specifically highlights the prediction that an increase in battery production will help lower costs. Additionally, Oregon offers rebates on electric vehicles which can give consumers up to $7500 back on a new vehicle. People will still be able to buy and sell used gas powered cars.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, another concern is electricity use. Electricity production creates the second highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As Sakata puts it, “more than anything as we make the shift to electric vehicles, how do we manage an increasing need for electricity?” Yet, she believes we will see the transition to clean sources such as hydropower and wind power. 

In addition to the forms of energy, the amount of energy, in relation to demand, must also be examined. At the end of August, increased temperatures led to the government of California asking its citizens to reduce the amount of electric vehicle charging they did. This was an attempt to lessen the burden on the energy grid, as higher temperatures increased energy demand, with more people turning on air conditioners and fans. 

In Oregon, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power shut off power to some homes and businesses in mid-September, citing wildfire concerns. With growth in temperatures and energy demand, adding more electric vehicles could burden power grids even further. However, Sakata stresses that the full ban is years away. There is time for the infrastructure to adapt and she adds that “if the rule is adopted, it sends a clear signal that we need to plan [for cleaner energy sources and greater energy supply].” 

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