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Should Other States Follow Washington’s 2030 Goal?
Washington state has adopted legislation that sets a goal of phasing-out sales of gas- and diesel-engined cars and light trucks by 2030, after a similar legislative effort was vetoed in 2021.The legislation, which was signed into law last month, creates an interagency council composed of several state agencies tasked with bringing about a smooth transition to EV-only sales by decade’s end.Washington’s legislation is now the most ambitious in the US to push for EV-only sales by a certain year.A couple of weeks ago Washington state Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law set to phase out sales of new gas- and diesel-engined cars and light trucks by 2030, after a similar effort fizzled out in 2021. The state thus set the earliest date through legislative action to bring about EV-only sales of certain vehicles within its borders, aiming far ahead of other efforts by various US states and a number of foreign countries that have announced similar plans. Known as Clean Cars 2030, the legislation is part of a larger Move Ahead Washington bill that contains a $17 billion transportation package, with other parts of the bill intended to bring about a smooth transition to EV-only sales through support for charging infrastructure and other initiatives. Clean Cars 2030 crates an interagency council tasked with planning to achieve the 2030 goal, with input and participation from several state agencies. “Clean Cars 2030 outlines a clear path forward for the future of the electric vehicle transition in our state,” said Washington State Senator Marko Liias, who supported the legislative effort. “This part of our Move Ahead Washington plan will create a timeline with the data, tools, and guidelines that every sector from governments to businesses can plan for with confidence. This is a monumental step toward reducing our carbon emissions in Washington, and I’m proud that our state is once again a leader in addressing the climate crisis.”It’s worth noting the only other state that has attempted a similar measure, California, has used a far weaker legal mechanism and has also set a much later target date of 2035. In California’s case the state used an executive order signed by the governor, which absent agency rulemaking or other measures is far closer to a mere policy statement, and thus needs CARB administrative rules to actually bring about that stated goal, in addition to other measures. California’s attempt also relies upon a future governor simply not undoing that executive action, as Governor Gavin Newsom is not expected to stay in office all the way through 2035 to ensure this happens politically. Washington’s experience has shown it is possible to set an ambitious target date for the phase-out of sales of certain internal-combustion engine vehicles, if not all, with the legislation making exceptions for emergency vehicles and larger trucks. It also shows some states are certainly better-suited to set such a goal due to geography and other factors: While Washington’s population is largely concentrated in several cities along the Interstate 5 north-south corridor, stretching from Olympia to the northern Seattle suburbs, it still features more remote population centers in other parts of the state. Therefore, its population distribution is quite diverse, necessitating long-distance travel for some residents, as well as featuring some significant distances between population centers. Washington’s goal, therefore, faces some challenges that a similar effort by a state like Rhode Island or Delaware would not. Yet, EV sales rates have been higher in Washington than in much smaller states even before efforts were launched to pass legislation, and were almost double the national average in 2021. It’s also worth noting the bill was signed into law during the closing days of March, which saw some record fuel prices on the west coast sparked by oil market turmoil following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, demonstrating one of the downsides of continued reliance on gasoline in the near and distant future.”The war in Ukraine and the burden of high gas prices on families demonstrate the importance of ending our dependence on gasoline and preparing for an all-electric transportation future,” said Matthew Metz, founder and co-executive director of Coltura, a Washington-based non-profit that supported the 2030 goal. “By targeting 2030 as an end date for the sales of gasoline cars in Washington, Clean Cars 2030 gives confidence to consumers, automakers, utilities, investors, and others that now is the time to go all-in on an all-EV future.”Quite a lot still has to happen in the next eight years to make Washington’s goal achievable, from the growth of the state’s charging infrastructure to the variety and supply of new EVs, whether they’re hatchbacks, crossovers or pickup trucks.