California Looks at Green Vehicle Incentives to Slash Emissions

(CN) – A California Senate committee passed a bill Tuesday seeking to increase the number of electric vehicles on the Golden State’s roads.

Assembly Bill 1046 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would empower the California Air Resources Board to conduct a comprehensive study with the aim of meeting California’s lofty goals of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025.

California has a long way to go to meet the goal: Currently, there are about 550,000 such cars and trucks on the road.

The executive order signed in 2018 by then-Governor Jerry Brown also calls for 5 million zero-emission vehicles by the year 2030.

Activists say that while California’s goals of reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change via installation of solar energy, wind energy and other forms of emissions are worthy endeavors, they are only a part of the overall carbon emission picture.

Emissions from vehicles account for approximately 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in California.

“Unfortunately, California’s overall transportation emissions are still on the rise and 80% of California’s transportation emissions come from passenger vehicles,” said Heidi Sickler, director of energy and environment for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Ting introduced the bill Tuesday, saying that setting goals are important but there must be incentives to actually achieve the benchmarks. Ting proposed a model similar to the one that gave steam to the solar power industry, with large rebates to electric car buyers at the outset of the program and then gradually diminishing those rebates as more and more zero-emission vehicles hit the road.

“There is no real incentive to buy or lease a zero-emission vehicle right now if consumers know the rebate level will be the same year after year – or even worse, run out during the year,” Ting said Monday after unveiling the bill. “But if consumers have certainty that the rebates will diminish as time goes on, they might act sooner rather than later.”

On Tuesday, the version of Ting’s bill that passed committee does not authorize the state to open its coffers for rebates and explicitly says there will be no fee on gas-powered car drivers to pay for any such program. Instead, the bill authorizes the California Air Resources Board to begin looking at how to structure such a program to meet goals to reduce emissions.

“We need the governor to work with us to reach these tangible goals,” said state Senator and committee chair Jim Beall, D-San Jose.

Representatives from the automobile industry expressed concern about the bill but said they would work with Ting and other lawmakers as the bill moves forward.

“We want to be sure the bill is tech-neutral,” said Leah Silverthorn of the California Chamber of Commerce. “We are also concerned about the lack of legislative control over the air resources board’s use of funds.”

Ting said the Legislature will have significant control over how much public money is spent on the program, pointing out the bill requires the state to identify a steady revenue stream rather than the year-to-year approach currently used.

The bill will head to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If it passes there, it goes to the floor for a full vote.

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