Banning gas cars won’t fuel a cleaner and cooler future

Josiah Neeley and Steven Greenhut
Neeley is the R Street Institute’s resident senior fellow for energy and is based in Austin. Greenhut is R Street’s Western region director and is based in Sacramento.

It’s not the end of the world, but from some of the photographs you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be. Across the West Coast, raging wildfires have led to mass evacuations, caused multiple deaths and billions of dollars in property damage, and even gave the sky an eerie, dystopian look as dangerously polluted air settled in the valleys.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed climate change. As part of his bold plan to address the Earth’s warming temperatures, the governor issued an executive order that would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars beginning in 2035. “Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air,” he noted. “Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

The edict, as it now stands, would allow Californians to drive and sell their existing internal-combustion-powered vehicles, but it would empower the notoriously ham-fisted California Air Resources Board to come up with detailed regulations. Who knows what that will look like by the time his edict goes into effect? In one fell swoop, the governor has done what even Democratic-dominated legislative supermajorities have deemed too far-reaching.

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Reading the Props. 16: This Is Simple Repeal. Really!

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.
Next is Prop 16.

Whatever you think of affirmative action and Prop 16, give the proposition this. There aren’t many ballot measures that actually make the California State Constitution shorter.

Prop 16, a constitutional amendment, is the simplest thing on the California ballot, at least in form. It’s a straight-out repeal of Section 31 of Article I of the state constitution—it takes back Proposition 209, which was passed in 1996.

And that makes it a welcome choice for voters. Because California’s initiative process is so inflexible—we’re the only place on earth where an initiative passed by voters can’t be changed without another vote of the people (unless the initiative explicitly permits amendment)—California voters rarely get a chance to reconsider a measure. After a generation, they get this chance at 209.

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CABIA Speaks Up for AB 5’s Victims

Tom Manzo
Founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance

If you watched last night’s Presidential Debate in the Bay Area, you might have seen a television ad from the California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA) criticizing the state’s AB 5 law. The same ad aired on national television earlier in the day.

The ad features stories from real freelancers, told in their own voices, who have been harmed by California’s misguided AB 5 law — a law that made it illegal for many freelancers to earn a living. Joe Biden promises to expand this approach nationwide.

Since AB 5’s passage, countless California freelancers have watched their incomes plummet. Freelancers Against AB 5, a Facebook group started by Southern California freelancer Karen Anderson, has grown to more than 19,000 members — many of whom have lost their livelihoods as a consequence of the law.

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Climate Change, Forest Management and Wildfires

John Moorlach
State Senator representing the 37th Senate District

Gov. Gavin Newsom likes to beat Californians over the head that every ill under his administration is due to climate change, including wildfires. But what you will not find him saying is that, while he is spending billions of dollars to have California singlehandedly eliminate global greenhouse gases, he and fellow Democrats have spent relative pennies to deal with mitigating the effects of it. 

Sadly, more and better preventive efforts could have saved homes and lives in Paradise, Berry Creek and all the other communities that have been ravaged by wildfires. 

Underinvestment in and poor management of our forests is a massive contributing factor to the wildfires this state is experiencing. A fire science professor from UC Berkeley recently was asked how much climate change was to blame for California’s wildfires. “Less than 50%,” he said. “Maybe a third.” 

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When It Comes to Housing, Jack Kemp had Good Ideas

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

Roughly thirty-five years ago, Yelena Bonner was not well known in America.  But, by the time she was allowed by mother Russia (then the Soviet Union) to travel to this country hers was nearly a household name.  When the sixty year-old human rights activist – wife of exiled Soviet peacenik Andrei D. Sakharov – arrived in New York she was surrounded by members of an adoring media.

“What do the Soviet people want?” a reporter asked her.  Without hesitating she answered.  “They want what all of humanity wants – a home of their own.”

That statement of Bonner’s in the ‘80’s became former congressman and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Jack Kemp’s signature reprise.  The irrepressible politician repeated it everywhere he went.  Why?  Because he believed it.  So much so that he tried to make homeownership a reality for all Americans who wanted it.  

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Californians and the Presidential Debate

Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Alyssa Dykman, and Rachel Lawler
Mark Baldassare is the President and Chief Executive Officer of PPIC; Dean Bonner is an Associate Survey Director and Research Fellow at PPIC; and Alyssa Dykman and Rachel Lawler are both Research Associates at PPIC.

Californians are highly inclined to tune in to tonight’s presidential debate, even though most have made up their minds about the two major party candidates. What does this tell us about California’s political landscape during this highly consequential—and divisive—election?

At this point in the process, Californians are engaged. The latest PPIC Statewide Survey finds that 85% of California likely voters are either very interested (57%) or somewhat interested (28%) in the upcoming debates between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump. This is consistent with the 87% who are either very closely (53%) or somewhat closely (34%) following news about the presidential candidates.

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From California’s Miracle Country, Post-Apocalyptic Life Lessons

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Recovery from recession, fire, pandemic and political conflict might require a miracle. Where can Californians find one?

In Miracle Country.

Miracle Country is the title of Kendra Atleework’s magical memoir about her life in the Eastern Sierra. The book begins with the 2015 fire that decimated her 200-person hometown, Swall Meadows, north of Bishop and 7,000 feet above sea level. And it relates unforgettable stories about how disaster shaped and reshaped the Eastern Sierra, particularly the Owens Valle. 

Atleework, in prose as beautiful as any writing ever devoted to our state, shows that apocalyptic events aren’t really ends. They are beginnings that ground and even nurture us. Her oft-devastated home region offers a preview of a post-apocalyptic life of great beauty and engrossing mysteries.

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No New Gas-Powered Cars? Hello Vehicle Mileage Tax

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

California officials have been toying with the idea of a Vehicle Mileage Traveled Tax (VMT) for some time but due to Governor Newsom’s executive order that only zero-emission cars must be sold starting in 2035 you can bet that the VMT will become a reality.

If Californians switch to electric vehicles under the executive order, the gas tax and other taxes such as the sales tax on gasoline purchases will disappear. One estimate says the gas tax brings in $8 billion a year. The excise tax on gasoline was recently raised to the highest in the nation under the rationale that money was needed for road improvements. Vehicles, electric and otherwise, will still be on the road with the executive order implemented but the revenue to build and fix the roads to meet the demand of road maintenance because of all those cars will be reduced dramatically to relatively nothing.

So where does the money for road maintenance come from? Hello Vehicle Mileage Tax.

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Reading the Props: Prop 15—Who Cares?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Every two years, I read the full text of all statewide ballot propositions—because at least one Californian should.

Next is Prop 15.

Proposition 15 is nothing but hype. 

Its proponents say it will boost the schools and enact tax fairness and reform the previously untouchable Prop 13. Its opponents say it will threaten Prop 13, and hurt businesses and the economy. But after reading the measure twice, I’m convinced it won’t do much at all. 

Of course, Prop 15 makes a lot of noise, which may be its purpose. And it has many words—it would add no fewer than five new sections of the already excessively complicated and long California State Constitution. 

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California Flavor Ban has Online Loophole

Sean Loloee
Sean Loloee is a store owner and community leader.

Much has been written about the recently passed flavor ban on tobacco products, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom. California now joins a short list of progressive states, like Massachusetts and New York, which have taken aggressive action to ban flavored tobacco products from being sold. While this is certainly progress in reducing the harm caused by smoking, there is a loophole in the California flavor ban that risks seriously undermining the effectiveness of the legislation.  

The legislation that Governor Newsom signed into law bans all flavored tobacco products, and was billed, in part, as a way to address the youth vaping epidemic.  

Organizations that came out in support of the bill’s passage also cited teen vaping in their praise. The American Heart Association tweeted out: THANK YOU to @GavinNewsom for signing #SB793 into law. Ending the sale tobacco products designed to hook kids helps ensure we don’t lose a new generation to nicotine addiction. 

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