Dustyn Thompson is the director of the Sierra Club’s Delaware chapter. He resides in Wilmington.
As Delawareans may have noticed, our state has begun to gather input on the adoption of new clean-cars standards. This would cut pollution from passenger cars by slowly increasing the number of electric vehicles and hybrids available and sold in the state over the next 10-12 years.
As this news captures attention, we have seen a surge in opposition and mischaracterization amongst state legislators and in media reporting on the clean-cars program as a “ban” on gas-powered cars.
It is time to set the record straight. Moving toward a cleaner, healthier future for Delawareans does not equal a ban on gas-powered cars. The idea that we are going to be “banning gas cars” certainly gets your attention, and that is why it is making headlines and email subject lines. It fires people up and drives them to action.
However, it doesn’t reflect reality.
What would it mean to ban gas cars? Would gas cars be illegal to own or drive? Would someone come take your gas car away? Perhaps it would be illegal to buy or register any gas-powered car? The answer to all of these questions is “no.” All of these thoughts work well to rile people up, but it does not reflect the full reality of what clean-cars standards would mean in Delaware.
Certain elected officials have declared that 35% of people will be forced or mandated to buy electric vehicles in 2025, but that is simply untrue. How would that work? Would there be a lottery at dealerships or at the Division of Motor Vehicles? Of course not, because, again, this idea is just not based in reality. We are not talking about any kind of policy that would require all Delaware car buyers to purchase an EV or about raising prices or fees on gas-powered cars to force you to drive a particular type of vehicle.
The Advanced Clean Cars II program — which has been or is being adopted in neighboring states like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts — will cut tailpipe pollution by requiring the carmakers, not car buyers, to increase the number of new, cleaner vehicles delivered and sold in Delaware. This means more electric, plug-in hybrid (which have a gasoline engine) or hydrogen vehicles will be available for purchase in Delaware, giving buyers more choices when purchasing new cars. Used cars, which the majority of buyers purchase, are entirely unaffected by this program.
Automakers have already made commitments to transitioning rapidly to electric vehicles. Nearly all of the major carmakers have declared on national prime-time TV (many during the past two Super Bowls) that they will no longer make gas cars after 2030 or 2035. The clean-cars program will ensure that Delaware car buyers will have the same choices as our neighboring states, with the added important benefit of cleaning our air and cutting climate-harming pollution.
We know there is a growing demand in Delaware for cleaner cars, but we also know that it is next to impossible to buy one in Delaware. With the adoption of this program, Delawareans would see more of these cleaner options at their local car dealer and no longer have to look out of state or purchase them online. Advanced Clean Cars II adoption will ensure automakers prioritize Delaware and provide these options to support your choices — all while keeping sales within the state, helping the local economy.
The majority of Delawareans and people across the country want a managed transition toward electric and other zero-emissions vehicles, during which the market can grow and adjust, and the private sector can fund a larger portion of the infrastructure needed to make the switch. That is exactly what Delaware, and many other states, both red and blue, are trying to accomplish by adopting Advanced Clean Cars II.
Without fully adopting ACC II in Delaware as swiftly as possible, the world around us will continue to transition to cleaner cars, and Delawareans risk having fewer local car-buying options in the future. Tailpipe pollution from gas-powered vehicles will continue to harm our health, and private investments will likely continue to skip over our state. By rejecting this program, we will be playing catch-up with every other state in the region.
To be clear, the Advanced Clean Cars II program is not a ban on gas cars; it is a way to provide a managed transition, while offering more choices, boosting our economy and protecting the health and environment of all Delawareans.