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A new law will mandate that all new cars sold in the state must be zero-emission vehicles by 2035, with most trucks following suit by 2045. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law to ban the sale of vehicles powered by fossil fuels by 2035.

It’s an ambitious plan, part of the state’s goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades. The state Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019.

This mandates that the state obtain at least 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. In addition, New York must achieve zero-emission energy by 2040 and lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% when 2050 rolls around.

The bill signed by Hochul on Sept. 8 will require cars to electric in 14 years and trucks to follow suit in 24 years.

“Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced new actions to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from the transportation sector. The governor signed legislation (A4302/S2758), setting a goal for all new passenger cars and trucks sold in New York state to be zero emissions by 2035. In addition, the governor directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to release a proposed regulation that would significantly reduce air pollution from trucks. If adopted, the regulation would accelerate zero-emission truck sales, resulting in improved air quality statewide and in particular those communities disproportionately impacted by transportation-related pollution,” according to a news release issued Sept. 8 by Hochul’s office. “Under the new law, new off-road vehicles and equipment sold in New York are targeted to be zero-emissions by 2035 and new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. The law also requires the development of a zero-emissions vehicle development strategy by 2023, which will be led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to expedite the implementation of the state policies and programs necessary to achieve the law’s new goals.”

This move is prompting some municipalities in Northern New York to take stock of the vehicles they’ll need to replace in the near future. Communities also must determine how many charging stations they’ll need to install to meet the demand resulting from this law.

Members of the Watertown City Council discussed this topic during their Sept. 20 meeting, according to a story published Tuesday by the Watertown Daily Times. Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said the Police Department has begun purchasing hybrid vehicles and asked if all departments should move in this direction.

It’s good for public officials to start having these conversations. They don’t want to be caught off-guard when the mandates take place.

Given the threats we’re facing from climate change, New York has taken bold steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, it’s important for governments on all levels to adopt effective measures that will address the problems.

But while it sounds progressive, mandating electric vehicles raises other questions. The cars themselves will produce zero emissions — fantastic!

However, what about their sources of energy? Will New York figure out how to cut its reliance on carbon-based power by the time it requires zero-emission vehicles?

The state is putting a lot of emphasis on wind and solar projects to generate a sufficient supply of energy for regions needing the most power. In the process of carrying this out, though, the north country is being pressured to host many of these facilities.

What commitment does New York have to using hydroelectric power? Many have questioned the state’s desire to take advantage of what Northern New York has to offer with this energy source after recently signing a deal with Hydro-Québec, a Canadian company, to provide power for New York City.

Nuclear power also must be part of the energy solution for the state. But the closure of Indian Point power plant earlier this year reveals the challenges being confronted by this industry.

Another major concern with the state’s mandate that new vehicles be emission free is if residents will actually comply with an order from Albany to buy specific cars. While the law doesn’t directly compel people to purchase electric vehicles (they could still obtain used cars with combustible engines), we have to believe this is a sign of things to come.

No government should force constituents to purchase an item they don’t want. This practice must be left to the free market. Once residents recognize the advantage of using emission-zero vehicles, they’ll start buying them in larger quantities — bypassing the need for a government mandate.

In addition, how will this law affect interstate travel by New Yorkers? Electric vehicles are beneficial for moving around communities, particularly those with an adequate number of charging stations.

But visiting other states could become problematic for New York residents with electric cars. Will these people get jammed up if the state they’re in doesn’t have enough charging stations or facilities with the charging capacity they require?

Will New Yorkers be inclined to buy their new vehicles in other states to get around this problem? What effect will this have on sales tax revenue from car dealerships? Will Albany eventually decree that gas stations must be phased out?

Strongly encouraging the use of electric vehicles without compelling it would be a better policy from the state government. While doing this, New York should find ways to create more charging stations. Officials also need to study the economic effects these mandates will have in the near future.

Moving away from fossil fuels is key to reversing the disturbing trends of climate change. However, questions linger about how the state will achieve the objectives it has set forth. We need some answers on these issues before putting implementing these changes.

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(2) comments

Joseph Savoca

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide

The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2019 was 409.8 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

Charlie McGrath

Where do all the materials to make batteries come from? Those materials come from mining. With the substantially increased demand for electric car batteries, substantial increases in mining will have to take place. Where? There are lots of pristine acres of rainforest in South America and Africa that we will have to sacrifice. Way worth it I guess to save the planet on our own. Do we have the capacity to produce our own batteries or will we buy batteries from China plants that are fired by coal like we do now? China can't build coal fired electric generators fast enough. We are going to increase OUR cost of energy while they produce cheap energy and use it against us. They could care less about their carbon footprint. Who can afford to buy these electric cars? You got $60,000.00? Not average Americans. Wake up to the climate hysteria! Go read something about the history of the earth and man starting only about 50,000 years ago. Then formulate your opinion on man made "climate change".

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