When a politician is faced with seemingly insurmountable problems in which there are no easy answers or quick solutions their advisers usually counsel them to change the subject. California Governor Gavin Newsom is in such a quandary and has obviously taken the counsel offered him.

With California facing raging wildfires that seem to have no end and power blackouts that have exposed the California’s inadequate electrical grid and unreliable green energy dictates, his administration may be looking to change the subject.

Not only did the administration change the subject, but in doing so conveniently laid the blame for all California’s current woes on looming disaster of climate change.

The identified villain?  The internal combustion engine powered by the evil fossil fuels gasoline and diesel.

The action Newsom took was to sign an executive order to ban the sale of new fossil fuel powered vehicles by the year 2035.

“Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air,” said Newsom in making the announcement demonstrating that he could neatly conflate the issue of the current wildfires with the use of gasoline powered cars. 

The wildfires could not possibly be the result of California’s decade’s long negligence in land management policies that could have prevented the infernos that are currently consuming hundreds of thousands of acres as well as homes and businesses.  But not only California, the Federal Government and private land owners who control these lands need to be held accountable here.

According to Governor Newsom, however, these wildfires are the direct result of climate change and public enemy number one are fossil fuels. 

But shouldn’t Newsom and the Legislature be looking instead at the short sighted environmental policies that created them?  Instead, Newsom has doubled down because polling tells him to do so.  According to a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll taken by the PPIC in December 2019, 71% of Californians were very concerned that global warming was making California’s wildfires more severe.

The smart move by the Newsom Administration is that the announcement highlighted the symbiotic relationship between the evil of gas powered cars, climate change and the increased severity of wildfires.

But Newsom may have temporarily changed the subject from the fires to climate change by blaming the internal combustion engine, he still hasn’t addressed the real elephant in the room. 

And that is California’s inability to provide reliable electricity to its almost 40 million residents due to their rush to embrace another poorly planned and thought out policy of running a modern state on intermittent renewable energy like solar and wind.

If California is to make the great switch from the hated gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles to all electric vehicles, this critical issue will need to be faced head on and there will be no changing the subject.

Some hard questions that will need to be answered quickly if California is to meet its ambitious and ever evolving green goals.

Consider the following tough questions:

  • How will California, which is already facing electricity supply, transmission and distribution problems, power all these electric vehicles?
  • What are the plans to meet the increase in electricity generation capacity by 50% or more to handle all of the charging for electric vehicles? 
  • What are the plans to upgrade the power grid and distribution network to handle the extra load?
  • Where will all the batteries be made to power all these electric vehicles and where will they be disposed of when spent?
  • Who will build the charging infrastructure that will support these vehicles? 
  • Where do the components for batteries come from?  A lot of the required minerals come from mines that use child labor – California should care about that.
  • What about the pollution and toxicity from those batteries?  What about the severe unintended environmental consequences of their own?
  • Most importantly, how does this new executive order impact or impede already in-progress policies?

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, John Eichberger, Executive Director of the Fuels Institute, a nonprofit research group launched by the National Association of Convenience Stores, said, “We need to think about these critical infrastructure issues because transportation is not optional.  How do we develop a system that can guarantee consumers that they can get the energy when they need it?”

How indeed when California right now can’t guarantee consumers can get the energy they need to just keep the lights on let alone power thousands of electric vehicles?

The devil is in the details and in this case the details are not even close to being addressed.

A cautionary tale for California is the replacement of the Eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  The project to tear down the old span and build a new one faced lawsuits, cost overruns, political meddling, jurisdictional issues and petty local politics that constantly delayed the completion.   Finally after countless delays, the new Eastern span opened on Labor Day 2013.  It took 24 years from the time the earthquake struck to plan and build a bridge that is only 2.2 miles long.

Governor Newsom’s overly ambitious plan is to rewire the state’s entire electricity system to ensure greater reliability while simultaneously creating an infrastructure to charge cars along the hundreds of miles of California freeways and streets in just 15 years.  It sounds like plenty of time, but practically speaking, it is not.  

Consider that it is a near certainty that this endeavor just like the Bay Bridge will face lawsuits, cost overruns, political meddling, jurisdictional issues, and petty local politics.  

This is California after all.