When Barack Obama told the country that under Obamacare “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” he was dinged for telling the PolitiFact Lie of the Year.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a similar promise when he signed last week an executive order that will outlaw the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2035.
“You can still keep your internal-combustion engine car,” he said. “You can still have a market for used cars. You can still trade and transfer those cars – we’re not taking anything away.”
Obama knew better, or at least he should have, than to make his promise about health care plans. But Newsom is likely telling the truth, as far as he knows. Outside of an override by the Legislature on possible future legislation that would contradict him, he has the authority to keep his promise as long as he’s governor. But he has no control of what happens after he leaves office. A governor years from now could issue an executive order that prohibits automobiles that use gasoline and diesel fuel from using California roads. A Legislature might pass a law that allows only electric vehicles on the roads and another governor would sign it.
Yet even under the Newsom promise, gasoline and diesel cars and trucks could be driven to extinction. Will the owners of these fossil-fuel classics be able to easily find gasoline and diesel due to a regulatory framework that limits the sale of fossil fuels? Will conventional cars and trucks be subject to a sin tax that will result in them collecting dust in garages, being crushed at a junkyard, or ending up as relics on exhibit? Will policymakers virtually drive them out of existence through exorbitant registration fees charged simply for ownership?
It’s easy to imagine that California becomes the new Cuba, the vintage car capital of the world, where roughly 60,000 American cars from the pre-revolution era rumble through the streets because Fidel Castro banned importation of U.S. automobiles and parts, and the Cubans have had little choice but to keep the retro automobiles on the road any way they can. The country is “essentially a living museum for classic cars,” says Anywhere, a travel-services website.
If you’re a classic car buff, Cuba is just about the greatest place on the planet. It’s like one big car show, where autos from the 1940s and 1950s motor along the streets and highways. There are Chevrolets, Fords, Pontiacs, Buicks, Dodges, Plymouths, and Studebakers. The cars run the gamut from mint condition to downright dilapidated. Well-preserved cars have exteriors that shine with chrome and new paint jobs, while the worse-off autos are held together with odd parts and scrap metal.
Unlike Cubans limited by trade restrictions, Californians can cross state lines to buy the parts they need to keep their automobiles operating or have them shipped. California vintage car owners might eventually create a cottage industry of exporting their carbon-based machines to other states the way Cubans are now able to export the pre-revolution cars they’ve been holding together for more than a half-century.
Unless the rest of the country joins California’s war on conventional cars, an outcome Newsom and most of Sacramento clearly have in mind. Just as the Obama administration set out to fundamentally alter health care in this country, whether Americans wanted the change or not, California wants to restrict our car-buying choices, even if doing so goes against the wishes of most of the nation.
The rush to electric vehicles is just the beginning, though. The ultimate goal is to move as many Californians – and Americans – as possible out of their cars and into public transportation. The agenda fits smoothly into the larger political effort to dissolve the individual into the collective. Exactly what Castro did in Cuba.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.