Graphic by James Howe
The State of California has once again affirmed their progressive stance as a globally conscious, forward-thinking region of the United States. Potentially the most liberal state in the country, California has developed a modus operandi of subsidizing green energy, pressuring Uber and Lyft to incorporate their workers from contractors to employees and mandating birth control be offered at colleges and universities within their borders. These are just a few of the myriad policies that challenge the generally more conservative policies of the other 49 states. California’s legislative actions have aligned the governing body to be the leading spectacle at the heart of American liberalism; predictably, such bold progressive stances seem to magnetize controversy to the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. Much of America questions whether these laws are genuinely tackling modern-day problems head-on, or if their rash, ill-advised and asphyxiating mandates suppress fundamental American freedoms. California’s latest headline and additions to their rule book might have just settled this debate, and hardly in the state’s favor.
California’s 2035 ban on the sale of gasoline vehicles has resulted in new depths of polarization, as state policymakers turn their noses at the industries hurt by such changes. California does not seem to mind being the most hated in the corporate arena; the energy industry, already being taxed by hefty clean energy policies by the state, has been plagued with multiple energy crises. With such catastrophes still in many residents’ rear-view mirrors, the new mandate on electric cars has encouraged a puzzling dependency on, and confidence in, an electric grid proven to be fraught with intermittencies. Shifting the responsibility of cleaner driving and fewer emissions unto the energy industry may even cause the industry to falter more frequently. The Wall Street Journal noted this issue particularly curtly, questioning if this arrangement “simply unload[s] the auto pollution onto the generating infrastructure.” Whether California’s energy industry will have developed reliable, more renewable sources of energy by 2035 is a largely open question. If this goal is not met, the state will merely have severely depressed job growth and industry viability, in the process shifting the smoggy tailpipe to a smoke-spewing power plant.
Regardless, the largest industry to be impacted will be the automobile industry. Within a 15-year time frame, leading car manufacturers now must provide and develop a copious amount of car design, options and models to try and capture a market of diverse, sometimes wholly incompatible preferences. Although the car industry has made it a prime focus to pivot to greener cars within the past decade, the progress has been slow. Beyond Tesla, no other car manufacturer has been able to create a hit, top-selling electric vehicle compared to their gas-guzzling counterparts. Again, this raises larger questions as to whether or not Californian industries are remotely close to being prepared for such a drastic change.
While many appreciate California’s ambitious, dynamic policy vision and its role in addressing pressing issues in the state, the anger and frustration at the discordance of their brazen wishes are valid. This particular move — and California’s legislative activities in general — has created something of a schism between California and the rest of America. California’s love for inspiring change is admirable, but it also inspires fear as to whether or not doing so will be more successful or detrimental.