On Tuesday, voters in California voted down a bill that would tax the state’s wealthiest residents to boost sales of electric cars, especially for low-income earners.
This measure, Proposition 30, was intended to help the Golden State meet its aggressive clean air and climate change goals. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In August, California’s Air Resources Board decided to ban the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035. The state, he said, passed a law in September calling for a 40% reduction in emissions and zero climate impact by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Legislators have also approved nearly $54 billion to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Max Baumhefner, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups backing Proposition 30, said:
To achieve this goal, Prop 30 was intended to fund electric vehicles, charging stations, and wildfire protection. The funds were to be subject to a 1.75% tax on income over $2 million. Proponents estimate that in 20 years he will raise $100 billion, more than half of which will go to low-income and disadvantaged communities. The vote took place on the anniversary of the 2018 Campfire, the deadliest and most devastating wildfire in state history.
Prop. 30 was one of the most overtly redistributive climate policies ever put on the ballot, and was initially popular. A summer poll put two-thirds of Californians in favor of him. But the business group, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom, actively opposed Proposition 30 and tipped against size. Newsom said in its ad that Proposition 30 was “devised by a single corporation to collect state income taxes and benefit the corporation.” That company, ride-hailing company Lyft, spent his $45 million lobbying for Proposition 30. .
As of Wednesday morning, 41 percent of the vote had reported and 59 percent of Californians voted NO on Proposition 30. The Associated Press called the bill defeated.
Much of the dynamic here is unique to California. “It’s easy to overinterpret this one vote,” Shaun Bowler, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, said in an email.
But much of the rest of the country has a habit of following California’s lead, especially when it comes to cars.As other states consider how to meet their own climate goals, Prop. 30’s failure will teach some important lessons. may provide.
What does the failure of Prop. 30 mean for other countries?
One of the major concerns in the clean energy transition is whether those most directly affected by issues such as air pollution and the effects of climate change will be the last to benefit from green jobs and low-emission technologies. It is often not. .
Especially when it comes to cars. Low-income, minority, and disadvantaged communities often have more roads, less green space, and these roads contain disproportionately older, more polluted vehicles. That is why environmentalists have embraced the idea of a just transition to ensure that environmental and economic benefits are distributed more fairly as we adapt and mitigate change.
Vehicle electrification in low-income communities is one way to do this. More EVs and fewer petrol cars would have immediate health benefits while reducing our impact on climate change. Companies like Lyft also benefit.
“Generally speaking, their drivers are low income and need help to buy these cars, which is a good thing. It’s a way of offsetting ,” Bowler said.
However, EVs are still more expensive than gasoline cars and trucks. The average US car price this year was about $48,000, while the average price of an electric car was $66,000. Even with subsidies aimed at low-income earners, EVs may not be affordable enough for most people until manufacturers cut prices further.
“I think we need to manage expectations,” said Katherine Wolfram, a visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School who studies energy and environmental economics. Ginger, but I don’t think you can joke that it helps the poor.”
Another problem is that if California goes further in taxing the wealthy, some residents may move to other states. “I think it’s probably better if it’s done at the federal level rather than at the state level,” Wolfram said.
The federal government has already enacted some major steps to put more electric cars, trucks and buses on the road. Both the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act allocated billions of dollars for electric vehicles and charging stations.
A cynical reading of Proposition 30’s failure is that politicians will do everything in their power to protect wealthy donors, even in blue states and at the expense of declared climate change goals. Taxes are particularly difficult to sell. Washington voters flinched twice when a carbon tax was put on the ballot.
But the fact that the majority initially supported Proposition 30 shows that there is a desire for incremental steps to address rising average temperatures. “At a high level, all states need to consider how those most affected by air pollution will soon realize the benefits of reducing air pollution,” Baumhefner said. I’m here.
And states should look beyond cars. For low-income communities, the most effective solution to local pollution and climate change may not be to switch to cleaner cars, but to get out of the car altogether. Improving public transport, creating more walkable neighborhoods, and small electric vehicles like bicycles have the potential to offer greater health and environmental benefits than just electric vehicles.
Even states like California that have set zero greenhouse gas emissions as their destination are still in thorny debate about the best route to get there, and there are many holes in the road ahead. One thing is clear.