Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Students and environmental activists participate in a climate strike in Los Angeles on May 24, 2019.

Students and environmental activists participate in a climate strike in Los Angeles on May 24, 2019. (Photo: Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ban Fracking in Calif. Now—Not 2024, Say Climate Groups Following Newsom Order to Phase Out Gas-Powered Cars

"Setting a timeline to eliminate petroleum vehicles is a big step, but Newsom's announcement provided rhetoric rather than real action on the other critical half of the climate problem—California's dirty oil production."

Andrea Germanos

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was accused Wednesday of providing "rhetoric rather than real action" to address the state's fossil fuel production in response to an executive order widely hailed for directing a phase-out of gas-powered cars by 2035.

"California is where the idea of cars as cool reached its zenith. So it's a big deal that they're going to stop selling the old kind," tweeted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben.

A statement from the governor's office says the 2035 target for zero-emissions cars "would achieve more than a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide."

"This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change," said Newsom.

"For too many decades," he continued, "we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn't have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse—and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines."

The new order (pdf) also calls for new zero emissions medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045 "where feasible" and the advancement of "affordable fueling and charging options."

There are also directives for "state agencies to develop new health and safety regulations that protect workers and communities from the impacts of oil extraction" and "strategies for an integrated, statewide rail and transit network, and incorporate safe and accessible infrastructure into projects to support bicycle and pedestrian options."

It further asks the state legislature to stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024—a timeline that drew sharp criticism from climate advocacy groups.

The state's commitment on zero emissions vehicles drew praise from Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner Caroline Henderson, but, she cautioned, the order "comes up short on the issue of fossil fuel extraction and does nothing to halt the significant increase in new oil and gas permitting that's occurred under his administration in the last six months." Greenpeace drew attention to the flurry of new drilling permits Newsom has given just this year. 

"When it comes to protecting communities from oil and gas drilling," Henderson charged that the order amounts to "all words and no teeth."

"Rhetoric alone will not protect frontline communities from the harms of oil and gas extraction, nor will it address the climate emergency that's currently playing out in California," she said.

"It's not enough for Newsom to believe in climate science if he continues to exacerbate the problem by expanding the fossil fuel industry—especially when he has the ability right now to immediately halt new oil and gas permits," Henderson added. "If Governor Newsom truly wants to be a climate leader, he must put forth concrete policies and urgent timelines for implementation."

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, similarly offered qualified praise for the new order.

"Setting a timeline to eliminate petroleum vehicles is a big step," she said, "but Newsom's announcement provided rhetoric rather than real action on the other critical half of the climate problem—California's dirty oil production."

"Newsom can't claim climate leadership while handing out permits to oil companies to drill and frack. He has the power to protect Californians from oil industry pollution, and he needs to use it, not pass the buck," said Siegel.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Amid Allegations of Child Endangerment, HHS Inspector General to Probe Fort Bliss Detention Facility

Whistleblowers had sounded alarm about the detention center contractors betraying children’s health and wellbeing.

Andrea Germanos ·


100+ State Lawmakers Join Texas Dems in DC to Demand Passage of For the People Act

"I really want to make sure they understand what we're going through in Florida," said one legislator, calling for "a federal firewall from these state voter suppression activities."

Jessica Corbett ·


Near-Record Temps and Deadly Fires Engulf Southern Europe

"Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house."

Andrea Germanos ·


Social Media Platforms Are a 'Safe Space' for Anti-Jewish Hate: Report

"Social media is increasingly unsafe for Jewish people, just as it is becoming for women, Black people, Muslims, LGBT people, and many other groups."

Brett Wilkins ·


Insulated From Patent Waivers, Pfizer and Moderna Hike Vaccine Prices

"Capitalism never fails to not surprise," wrote one observer.

Julia Conley ·