Government interference, practicality concerns over banning gas car sales

Government interference, practicality concerns over banning gas car sales

A proposal last year to ban the sale of gasoline cars and require that all new vehicles be electric by 2030 failed to clear the House Transportation Committee. Now, State Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43) has reintroduced the proposal via HB 1204, and prior concerns that were expressed last go round about viability and government intervention in the market were raised again at its Feb. 1 public hearing.

“Increasing to 100 percent EV (electric vehicle) sales in just nine years approaches wishful thinking,” Jessica Spiegel with Western States Petroleum Association told the committee. “Climate policy action should be affordable, effective, and sustainable – and not based on mandates with likely unachievable targets.”

Like other climate action legislation introduced this session, HB 1204 seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the transportation sector that make up half of all GHG emissions in the state.

Macri said the bill deals with “the urgent need to address climate change and the importance of eliminating carbon inputs in our transportation sector.” She added that while the transition to EV won’t happen overnight, it’s “happening a lot quicker than a lot of us imagined.”

The bill directs the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) to adopt regulations by 2025 on how to mandate EV-only car sales, with a scoping plan due to state transportation committees by September 2023. The state Department of Licensing would be prohibited from registering non-electric vehicles made in 2030 or after.

Testifying as “other” on the bill, WSTC Executive Director Reema Griffith told the committee that “the key to advancing this bill will be to achieve a better understanding around the implications of the bill before final regulations are put in place.” She added that if enacted into law, “it will remain very important that Washington state citizens have a way to help shape the plan for Washington state.”

Although Macri described the mandate as an “ambitious but achievable date,” committee members such as Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19) expressed doubt, due in part to the unknown fiscal impact. “What the heck would this cost the taxpayers in the state of Washington?”

Some testifying noted that a transition to 100 percent EVs in the state would require enormous infrastructure expansion to accommodate them. On top of that, Association of Washington Business Government Policy Director Mike Ennis said the policy could jeopardize gas tax revenue needed to pay off existing bond debt and finance ongoing projects within the 2015 Connecting Washington Transportation package.

Rep. Robert Sutherland (R-39) also questioned how the state energy grid would be able to handle the new demand. “Where’re we going to get this energy – are we going to build more dams? Are we going to build nuclear power plants? How are we going to generate this electricity?”

Aside from practicality issues, Ennis said another problem with the bill is that it forces a specific kind of fuel technology onto consumers. “We think the market should choose the winner, not government. If we choose the single fuel of electricity, there could technology advances in the future that would be unable to enter the market.”

Reiterating points made with the 2020 proposal, Pacific Propane Gas Association lobbyist Mel Sorenson said the state has already created incentives to expand infrastructure for alternative fuels such as propane gas used for light duty fleet vehicles. “A mandatory, one-fuel approach, we think, is inconsistent with these incentives and longstanding policy of fuel neutrality.”

No further action is scheduled for HB 1204.

TJ Martinell is a native Washingtonian and award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Bellevue, he’s been involved in the news industry since working at his high school newspaper.

His investigative reporting for various community newspapers in the Puget Sound region has been recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

A graduate of Eastern Washington University, he has a B.A. in journalism and was the news editor of EWU’s student university newspaper.

The Latest News