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Is Colorado On Track for a California-Style Gas Car Ban? What We Know So Far

Is Colorado On Track for a California-Style Gas Car Ban? What We Know So Far

A couple of weeks back, California made headlines when it finalized plans to ban the sale of all gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035.

This radical new rule marked the first instance of a government anywhere in the world passing a 100% zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate. It also left many Coloradans wondering if the Centennial State would immediately be effected by California’s new ban.

After all, Colorado has agreed to adopt California’s regulatory program in the past.

However, new statements from the Governor’s office suggest that the state won’t be following California’s lead this time. At least not yet.

According to the Associated Press:

Colorado regulators, who adopted California’s older rules, won’t follow California’s new ones, the administration of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said.


“While the governor shares the goal of rapidly moving towards electric vehicles, he is skeptical about requiring 100% of cars sold to be electric by a certain date as technology is rapidly changing,” the Colorado Energy Office said in a statement.

It’s a positive sign that the Governor appears to be rejecting such heavy-handed mandate. Gas vehicle bans are illiberal and run roughshod over consumer choice. They also ignore the distinct vulnerabilities facing the electric grid as demand continues to increase and reliable generation continues to be replaced with intermittent renewables.

California got a quick reminder of this factor just one week after finalizing its ban, when a heat wave forced the state to specifically ask its residents to avoid charging electric vehicles, among other things, to avoid rolling blackouts.

As the Wall Street Journal points out:

California heavily relies on solar energy instead of natural-gas power or coal-fired generation, a strategy that poses a challenge when the sun sets. The state imports electricity from other states when energy demand surges. Because of droughts, California hasn’t produced as much hydroelectric power in recent years.

In anticipation of the heat wave, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency last week to increase the energy supply by allowing power plants to generate additional electricity.

The state has been stretching its renewable-energy supply in recent days largely by using batteries and asking customers to conserve power. That system could crumble if the heat persists.

However, Coloradans concerned about the prospects of a gas-vehicle ban coming here should not breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

There’s no official timeline or deadline for Colorado to adopt or eschew California mandates. The state assembly has only told the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) that it can adopt California regulations, not that it must. That leaves a great deal of discretion for Colorado regulators in the Polis administration to bide their time in considering next steps.

It’s possible that the Governor is sincere in his opposition to the gas-vehicle ban. It’s also possible that he is simply weighing his statements on the matter against a looming November election where he’s hoping to retain his job against a Republican challenger. A similar calculus has already been demonstrated in his recent decision to push back against looming EPA mandates over ozone pollution, after doing the exact opposite when he took office in 2019.

If he secures his reelection this November, he won’t have to face Colorado voters again for the duration of his time in office. That could free him up to revisit more politically perilous regulatory decisions at a later date, if he so chooses.

It’s also possible that the administration is content to simply kick the can down the road.

The Polis administration has committed the state to a goal of having 940,000 EVs on the road in Colorado by 2030, long after the Governor is term-limited. So far, there are only around 61,000 registered EVs in the state, according to the state’s dashboard.

A future administration, frustrated by the lack of widespread, organic EV take up among Colorado residents, could very well choose to revisit the idea at a later date in order to force the issue.

So, Colorado residents concerned with the ability freely choose their means of transportation should remain vigilant.

But as it currently stands, a California-style ban will not be coming to Colorado.

Jake Fogleman