With Our Car Culture, No Gas Is No Glory

Some parents offer their children a blessing every time they see them.

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My dad’s holy water is gasoline.

Whenever I visit him, he looks under my car to make sure the fuel lines aren’t leaking, then switches on the ignition to see if the tank is at least half full, like he says it always should be. Whenever Dad visits me, he comes holding a five-gallon gas can to top off the lawnmower, weeder and edger we use on the patch of lawn I keep so we can have something to do together.

He’s a retired truck driver, someone who always tries to ride in style, despite his limited income. So most of Dad’s life lessons center on the combustion engine. Check the timing belts every morning. Ten cents saved on a gallon of lower-octane gas will cost you later. Always carry a wrench, jumper cables and a quart of oil. If you can’t own a truck, know someone who does.

Dad imbued me with a love of cars that continues. I own four gas-guzzling relics — a beat-up 1968 VW Bus, an immaculate 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, a sturdy 1979 Ford SuperCab and a 2005 GMC Yukon that’s my daily driver. Yep, I wince at the pump every day — but I largely don’t mind, because I love ’em.

Strangers and friends are always surprised, because I seem like a Prius-driving liberal. I keep my fleet because it connects me to my self-sustaining, rancho libertarian roots. I boast that three of my four cars have carburetors, then laugh as I have to explain what one is. Owning an older car means constant vigilance and the acceptance that sooner or later, good times are going to break down. Besides, my jalopies force me to pay attention while I drive, since the most advanced thing any of them carries is a CD player.

So when I heard that California has banned the sale of new gas-powered cars after 2035, I didn’t immediately celebrate.

The development came via a vote by the California Air Resources Board, two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom tasked its members with developing and implementing a plan to accomplish the audacious goal. It’s the latest move in the state’s battle against anything that uses fossil fuels.

The air board last year banned the sale of gas-powered gardening equipment starting in 2024 and portable generators by 2028. More than 50 cities are limiting or outlawing natural gas in new homes and businesses. California is supposed to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045, and Newsom pushed the state Legislature earlier this month to make it harder to tap into new oil and natural gas wells near schools.

We’re doing all this to fight climate change and set an example for everyone else. Lauren Sanchez, Newsom’s climate advisor, described the gas-engine ban as “a huge day not only for California but the entire world.”

I’m all for cutting back on emissions. They exacerbate climate change, poison our environment and disproportionately affect minority communities, like the one I grew up in right next to the 91 Freeway that divides Anaheim and Fullerton. I appreciate California thinking big and its willingness to lead on important issues while other states look on. Coming into the Los Angeles Basin on a sunny morning and seeing a tarry gray cloud over it is a grim reminder of what we’ve done to ourselves.

But a crackdown on gas engines also threatens a communion that working-class Californians have shared for decades.

Learning how to work on your car is a rite of passage in car culture, a torch passed from hot-rodders to lowridersvan-life hipsters to import-car enthusiasts. Maybe you can’t own a home, but you can at least maintain something and call it your own.

You learn to respect the engine’s facets, whether you’re a gearhead or not. The different greases and grimes each part creates. The deep smell of oil, the acrid stench of gas. The symphony of sounds — a roar, a purr, a putter — each engine creates. An ecosystem of enthusiasts, generalists and specialists creates community (if mostly among men).

All of this is now endangered. California officials insist that only new gas-powered cars are being targeted. But no one buys that. In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed the so-called grandfather clause on smog checks, which exempted cars older than 30 years. Now, it applies only to models from before 1975. With the new regulations, the slow drip against the combustion engine turns into a fire hose.

Again, I get the reason why. But telling Californians that banning combustion engines is necessary to save the planet isn’t enough. The air board also needs to realize that the culture gas-powered cars created is one that electric cars will have a hell of a time replacing. There’s no emotional attachment yet from the masses, and I don’t think there ever can be.

Nothing is cheap on electrics. Something as simple as getting out of the car turns into a dystopian mess if the computer doesn’t cooperate. Most need specialized mechanics for the tiniest fixes — you can’t call over a cousin to check on your car in the driveway. Their shape and feel remain robotic and antiseptic. Their sickly wheeze when on the move is such a stumbling block for blue-collar types that the electric version of Dodge’s iconic Charger muscle car will roar just like its gas-powered ancestor. Electric cars also aren’t as harmless for the environment as proponents make them out to be, since mining for the rare-earth minerals that power them threatens oceans and Native American reservations alike.

These are just some of the reasons only a handful of my friends and family float around in electrics. Families tend to get hybrid SUVs; men favor mamalonas (massive trucks) or muscle cars that proudly belch out exhaust. None are conservatives; all believe in climate change. But the state will have to pry their Silverados from their cold, dead hands.

These might seem like selfish and trivial points in the face of the existential dread that is our air-quality emergency. But to dismiss such concerns is classic elitism. You can’t shame the working class out of what brings them joy. That’s why the air board hasn’t outright outlawed gas-powered engines — yet.

Bans in the name of saving Earth almost always fall on the very people they claim to uplift. I sadly know this from experience. In 2006, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced a program to ban all but the newest big rigs in the name of cracking down on diesel emissions. The air board eventually adopted the same regulations. Drivers whose rigs were no longer eligible either had to buy a new model or retrofit their old ones, costing thousands of dollars that self-employed truckers didn’t have.

Many lost their jobs. One of them was my father. Dad was too old to justify buying a new truck, yet too young to retire. He had to sell off his Kenworth and remained unemployed for years as a glut of younger truckers flooded the market.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Comments

  1. So a group of entitiies are appointed by a group of corrupt entities to make laws. How is that,by any measure, legally justifiable?

  2. Treva Bennett says

    Interesting read and humorous at times Gustavo. I don’t believe the board has the legal authority to erase or outlaw gas vehicles. They certainly aren’t taking mine. I challenge them to reveal the cost of batteries and how damaging they are to our environment when they go kaput. I will never buy or drive an electric car. I don’t consider myself a minority but I grew up by a freeway in California. True, it was smoggy but the air quality has greatly improved and you choose where you live.aside from that I’m still breathing with no cancer. Your Dad sounds like a gem. 😁

  3. Move to Mexico. Simple!! Fossil fuels are a friend!!

  4. This has nothing to do with global warming or climate change which has been going on for thousands of years and is recorded in nature, but the zealots will believe anything. It is all about control.

  5. JW absolutely nailed it!

  6. David Bryant says

    The weather experts now make HVAC replacements ELECTRIC.No clean, abundant natural gas allowed.
    New vehicles will have to be ELECTRIC.
    American taxpayers fund tax subsidies to ELECTRIC vehicle makers.
    The batteries in ELECTRIC vehicles are enslaving child labor in Africa as rare earth elements are ripped out of the ruined earth of the Congo and beyond. “Hey, it’s only Africa” must be the social justice left’s chant.

    Oh, an inconvenient truth never uttered by the formerly famous Al Gore is that his climate brain cancer spread across our nation has never explained where the ELECTRICITY is coming from. Even China can’t build enough ugly solar panels and windmills to make the kilowatts. But they sure can make our deserts and shorelines look like junkyards.

  7. Treva is correct the CARB does not have the legal authority to outlaw gas vehicles. They do not have the right to ban gasoline stations. The Cities that are banning gas stations for air quality have yet to prove the issue.

    My 1966 Mustang, rebuilt engine, electronic points, new roller rockers, and the latest in lubrication went from 250 PPM Hydrocarbons to almost 50 PPM. That is a staggering reduction. When the State Democrats demanded ethanol in the gas as a “green” item it increased the ozone and reactive smog in the air. It also damages rubber parts and gaskets.

    The Democrat One Party Socialist Rule have yet to “prove” this current drought is not the same weather pattern that started in the late 1860’s and destroyed the cattle industry by the 1970’s. It also was part of a similar weather pattern in the southwest faced today. It must have been all those gasoline guzzling cars and trucks that created the weather the Socialist are talking about. Hummm, come to think about it wasn’t Greenland named because it did not have year round snow and punishing cold temperatures.

    The cost to the working poor and middle class is of no consequences to the Socialist’s or Communist’s that control Sac.

    Improved air quality cost them political power so they changed the story line. Al Gore stated the oceans would rise 12 inches in a decade. Did not happen. What is the latest prediction? 7 foot level ocean rise in the next 50 years. That prediction happened 2 years ago. That means we should have experienced about 1.2 foot increase in the past 2 years.

    Are you getting it?

    When was the coldest winter of the mid 1900’s in Europe? 1945 after the world produced massive amounts of carbon in the war effort. What was the complaint by both sided about the Battle of the Bulge? It was sooooooo cold and that was the 100 year cold spell.

    Environmentalists have effectively stopped the increasing of dam capacity, and building of desal on the coast. So they want the people to suffer? Logic would dictate that.

    So in the past 2 decades as carbon has been cut back on the climate? is getting hotter?

    How much longer will the people be led by nose rings before they figure out Pelsoi (shady stock deals, driving porches, let them wear masks), and Slick Newsom (French Laundry, punishing mask mandate, $200million a mile RAIL he said was dead, taking of $6Billion of gas tax money for unused bike paths for the environment?).

    Oh did I forget to mention as of 31st of Aug. not ONE HURRICANE was named or hit land fall as predicted by the Socialist Environmentalist who stated the “climate change” would create that devastation?

  8. Here they come, America! California radicals just signed into law that 30% of all new vehicles sold by 2025 must be EVs. By 2030 they sales must be 70% and by 2035, NO gas powered vehicles can be sold. Currently EVs account for 8% of new cars sold in CA. So Newsom is demanding that EV sales must TRIPLE in 2 1/2 years. Dealers will have HUGE incentives to push EVs as the penalty for not meeting this mandate could be as high as $20K PER VEHICLE. I can promise you the dealers will not absorb this penalty. So as the REAL market demands continued sales of gas powered cars, the dealer will likely add the penalty that he will have to pay to the vehicle cost. Obviously this will dis-incentivize purchasers, but many will still want the freedom to buy what they want, OR NEED, so costs will skyrocket UP! And some additional analysis for you Utopians. The average American drives 14,263 miles per year. The AVERAGE EV requires 30kW of electric power to run 100 miles. Using the most frequently purchased vehicle in USA, the Toyota RAV 4, for comparison, the average MPG is 27 CITY that I will use for comparison. Annual costs for Fuel (Electric power for EVs) (Gasoline for RAV 4), and using California’s cost of $0.26/ kW, we see that an EV will cost $1,112 vs $3,170 (using CA’s $6.00/gal). OK, EVs cost less per year than gas vehicles. BUT, average insurance cost for EV is over $400 more per year!. A RAV 4 retail cost is just over $30K and the AVERAGE cost of EVs at this writing is $67K. So it will take more than 15 years if annual fuel cost savings to make up for the initial cost difference between Gas and EV car. If you keep your EV for 15 years, plan on replacing the batteries that are expected to last 8-10 years. TODAY these replacement costs range from $2700 to OVER $47K. The realistic expectation is that around 10 years, owners will junk EVs and buy new ones.
    More expectations; creating false markets will skew the actual demand and drive gas powered vehicle costs higher (penalties previously mentioned) and EV costs MUCH higher as demand will increase. IF the state/nation adopts these radical ideas in wholesale, demand for gasoline will decrease, making gasoline cheaper. Power companies will have to dramatically build new generation (most likely source is natural gas) and this transition will take DECADES!! So power demand will increase dramatically for limited supply, expect electricity bills to skyrocket. Also note there are NO NEW NUCLEAR plants being constructed and approvals take DECADES! The irony here is that all this NEW GREEN DEAL BS will actually drive MORE FOSSIL fuel consumption at the generation point. Anyone want to bet the people making these decisions for all of us will NEVER give up their lifestyle but will cost us out of the freedoms and pursuit of happiness we deserve. Do liberals not have gated communities and armed security when they take our guns? Do politicians stop flying private jets to their gatherings and meetings with Davos elites? Does Newsom stop attending $1000/wine events at French Laundry? And this BOZO wants to become our PRESIDENT!!!!!!!! America BEWARE!!!!!

  9. When EV’s become overwhelmingly common in CA look for the already overstretched power grid to become unable to provide enough electricity to heat our homes and businesses and run our electric appliances. Also, the same “green” idiots are starting to ban new gas hookups so you won’t even have that option in some cases….these elites are trying to force us back in the Middle Ages where we are all just serfs on the California plantation

  10. That’s it Marillynne, we are becoming economic slaves.

  11. TheRandyGuy says

    You get what you vote for. The internal combustion engine is not killing the plwnet, butthe eco-worshippers remain convinced it is. Just one question (because I haven’t seen this issue addressed): If new gas-powered vehicles are not legal for sale in California, will police/fire/rescue vehicles be powered by electricity? I think we all know the answer to that.

  12. Our demise is imminent only because PROPAGANDA IS ALIVE AND WELL.
    Too many colleges in California all spewing the same evil with too many walking deadheads among us in CA
    Now public (government) schools join in on the indoctrination of a nation.
    The edge of the cliff is near.

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