California Today: Should California Ban Non-Electric Cars? – New York Times

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2017


Electric vehicles charging in Mountain View.

Jason Henry for The New York Times

Good morning.

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What if California did away altogether with cars powered by fossil fuels?

Gov. Jerry Brown is said to have considered the question. According to a report in Bloomberg, he asked a state regulator about a plan by China to phase out sales of fossil-fuel vehicles.

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

The remarks have thrilled environmentalists who see tailpipe pollution — accounting for about a third of total greenhouse gas emissions — as a bane to both air quality and the climate.

“It’s an important conversation to have and we’re glad it’s starting to get some traction,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, who heads the Sierra Club’s clean transportation unit.

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For now, conversation is all it appears to be.

A spokesman for the air resources board, Dave Clegern, declined to say whether officials were serious about a ban.

“Given the existential challenge we face,” he said in a statement, “the administration is looking at many, many possible measures.”

If California did pursue a ban, a number of questions would have to be worked out.

Would it roll out in phases? Would it apply also to hybrids that use both gas and electricity? And how would people afford the more costly cars?

Industry experts said any ban would require a broad expansion of charging stations, as well as upgrades to the electrical grid.

Such obstacles haven’t stopped other governments.

India, France, Britain and Norway have all moved toward phasing out diesel and gas fueled cars.

Kerry Jackson, a fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, a free-market think tank in San Francisco, said Ms. Nichols’s comments were more evidence a state held captive to overzealous environmentalists.

“The reaction is like, ‘Gee, somebody has been reading The Onion and they got taken in by the parody,” he said. “But then it fades a little bit and you go, ‘Yeah, this is California.’”

There’s also another matter: Consumers haven’t exactly embraced electric vehicles.

While Californians have been the nation’s leading adopters, electric vehicle sales in the state amount to less than five percent of the total.

“I think really the lag here is consumers,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds. “For the automakers, they have to balance the lawmakers’ desires versus what they can actually sell.”

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Mark Endicott, a Border Patrol agent, at the end of the border fence, in East Otay Mesa.

Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

• In many ways, a preview of a border wall, and what it can and cannot accomplish, has been in San Diego for nearly two decades. [The New York Times]

• California is moving its presidential primary voting to March, three months earlier than past contests. The move is designed to give the state more sway in choosing the major party nominees. [The Associated Press]

• President Trump proposed the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades. It could hurt many Californians. [McClatchy]

• Conservative groups are pressing the dubious claim that a California measure would jail people for using the wrong transgender pronoun. [PolitiFact California]


Hugh Hefner with a cadre of Playboy Club waitresses, called bunnies, in 1963.

Playboy Enterprises Inc.

Hugh Hefner died Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion, at 91. He styled himself as an emblem of the sexual revolution, creating a media empire and remaining its avatar for decades. [The New York Times]

• A chunk of rock broke off El Capitan, the towering granite wall in Yosemite, killing one person and injuring another. [The New York Times]

• The owner of the Oakland warehouse that went up in flames during an illegal party last December, killing many, has avoided prosecution. Now she’s poised to collect $3 million in insurance. [East Bay Times]

• Russia relied heavily on Twitter to sway the 2016 vote, and the subterfuge continues: Fake accounts even stoked furor over N.F.L. protests. [The New York Times]


Jason Calacanis, a start-up investor who has bet on Uber and others, cuts an unusual figure in Silicon Valley.

Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

• “Most of you are screwed,” writes Jason Calacanis, a Silicon Valley investor. The tech industry is decimating the rest of the planet’s wealth and stability. [The New York Times]

• The Los Angeles Rams are on pace for the N.F.L.’s biggest drop in stadium attendance in decades. [FiveThirtyEight]

And Finally …


Nicolás Espinoza, or Nicolas in official California documents, last weekend.

Pablo Espinoza

Pablo Espinoza and his wife Nancy Chaires Espinoza welcomed a baby boy last year.

They chose the name Nicolás. The story of the Christian saint held appeal, but they also just liked the sound of it, said Mr. Espinoza.

So they were stunned when the staff at a Los Angeles hospital said they couldn’t use the name as is: By law, they’d have to drop the accent mark.

Instead of Nicolás, the boy’s name was recorded on his birth certificate as Nicolas, a change that shifts the emphasis from the “a” to the “o.”

It was galling to the new parents.

“It’s just two different names,” Mr. Espinoza said. “Parents should have the right to name their child what they like.”

The rule dates to 1986, when voters made English California’s official language. Since then, officials have interpreted the measure as banning diacritical marks — including tildes, graves, umlauts and cedillas — on certificates of birth, marriage and death.

As it happens, Mr. Espinoza, who works as a consultant to the leader of the State Assembly, Anthony Rendon, was in a position to do something about it.

He urged another lawmaker to introduce Assembly Bill 82, which would reverse the ban.

To win support around Sacramento, Mr. Espinoza said he relied on an easy example.

Drop the tilde (~) from the common Spanish surname Peña, and it becomes Pena, the Spanish word for shame.

“So for those poor souls in California, they’re known as shame,” said Mr. Espinoza.

The measure sailed virtually unopposed through the Legislature. It’s now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Correction: Yesterday’s version of the newsletter misidentified where Barack Obama went to law school. It was Harvard, not Yale.

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The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Los Osos. Follow him on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

Some readers may have received a newsletter on Wednesday noting that Barack Obama went to law school at Yale. He went to Harvard. We corrected the error.

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