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Combustion engines could go the way of the horse and buggy in California, top air regulator says

 (Carl Costas / For The Times)
(Carl Costas / For The Times)

Imagine a future where only zero-emission vehicles could be registered in California or driven on the state's freeways. 

Those are two tactics that could be used to help the world's sixth largest economy phase out combustion engines, suggested California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

The state already has far-reaching policies for fighting climate change, but Nichols said Gov. Jerry Brown wants to make sure California is keeping pace with goals set by other countries.

Britain and France plan to ban vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel fuel by 2040, and China recently announced it would set its own deadline.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said in the Bloomberg interview. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

The discussion is not a new one for California leaders. Brown signed legislation last year requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, but an even more ambitious target was included in a 2005 executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To hit the goal of slashing emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, California would need nearly every new vehicle sold between 2040 and 2050 to produce zero emissions, according to an analysis from the Air Resources Board.

So far, California has struggled to meet more modest goals of getting more electric cars on the road, and emissions from transportation have recently increased. 

“Given the existential challenge we face, the administration is looking at many, many possible measures – including additional action on electric vehicles – to help rapidly decarbonize the economy and protect the health of our citizens," Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, said in a statement.

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