California Gov. Gavin Newsom scares me. Really, really, scares me. While he seems like a nice guy, someone I’d enjoy sipping wine with at his PlumpJack vineyard and garnering some hair care tips, he’s repeatedly demonstrated that he’s not a particularly deep thinker. Okay, I’m no Einstein, but I’m not leading a state whose GDP would rank as the world’s fifth largest economy if it were a sovereign nation.

My biggest nightmare is that Newsom, who attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, will run as the Democratic Party candidate in 2024 and tap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as his running mate, as some have predicted. Whitmer is the only governor possibly more inept than Newsom and their election would be truly historic. It would be the first time a jock and a sorority girl had been elected to lead America. I’d expect one heck of an inauguration party.

As one example of Newsom’s dimwittedness, on the July 4th holiday weekend he ran a commercial on the FOX station in Florida urging residents to fight for freedom or move to California where he promised they could find it. Running ads on a FOX station encouraging Floridians to move to California makes as much sense as Budweiser sponsoring the annual conferences of the Mormon Church. Given that Californians are stampeding to Florida, Gavin’s money would have been better spent advertising on a San Francisco or Los Angeles TV station begging residents not to leave the state.

Another example of questionable thinking was the governor’s recent signing of a bill that makes jaywalking legal in California. The bill is dubbed the “Freedom to Walk Act” but it should be called “Freedom to Get Yourself Hit by a Car or Truck Act.” According to California’s Office of Traffic Safety, pedestrian deaths account for 25.6% of all state traffic fatalities. The agency’s 2020 data show that across the country, 6,516 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes, a nearly four percent hike from the year prior.

Americans have long regarded California as overrun with celebrities, tree huggers, and weirdos, but unfortunately the state’s environmental policies impact the rest of the country as other states look to California for wisdom and guidance on how best to address climate change. In September, Newsom issued an edict that bans the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a policy designed to “dramatically reduce demand for fossil fuel.”

However noble Newsom’s edict let’s look at what’s happening in the real world.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Port of Los Angeles is the largest fixed source of smog- and particulate-forming pollution in Southern California, emitting 100 tons of nitrogen oxides each day – surpassing the amount emitted daily from the region’s six million cars.

To reduce those emissions, the port has mandated that all heavy- duty trucks be zero emissions by 2035.

How’s that working out?

According to the Times, the transition “has proven more challenging than officials anticipated.” An initial bid for trucks capable of running a minimum of 25 miles without emissions received commitments for only 42 zero-emission trucks.

Eugene Seroka

“These truckers, on average, pay $50,000 for their truck,” Eugene Seroka, executive director of the Port of L.A., told the Times. “It’s usually bought on the second- or third-hand market. A near-zero truck today costs $225,000. A zero-emission, battery-electric truck costs between $350,000 and $450,000, and the early prototypes of the hydrogen fuel cell truck are probably double that. How are you going to get this family business to go from a $50,000 rig to a half-a-million investment per truck?”

I’ll bet you Newsom, nor anyone else in Sacramento, knows the answer to that question.

Seroka’s cost estimates of an electric Semi appear within the ballpark. An order Lion Electric received in 2020 worked out to $400,000 a truck and the Port of Oakland’s purchase of 10 Peterbilt electric trucks amounted to $510,000 a vehicle.

Yet Elon Musk supposedly plans to sell his Tesla Semi for $140,000, which after the $40,000 in tax credits provided in the Inflation Reduction Act would effectively bring down the price to $110,000, significantly less than the $128,000 the top-of-the-line Tesla S Plaid passenger vehicle sells for. GM’s Mary Barra lists her monster Hummer EV truck starting at $111,000, so why buy that vehicle when for less money one could tool around their neighborhood in a spanking brand-new Tesla Semi?

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

According to autoevolution’s Gustavo Henrique Ruffo, an EV writer who strikes me as someone you don’t want to mess with, the Tesla Semi’s economics are open to debate. Ruffo, relying on an analysis by engineer Jason Fenske, argues that Tesla Semi’s formidable weight because of its battery packs will limit its cargo capacity to 58,281 pounds to comply with maximum gross vehicle weight limits. By comparison, diesel trucks can transport 63,000 pounds. Ruffo says that if fleet owners were to buy the Semi, they would need 14 of them to carry the load 13 diesel trucks can deal with.

Another issue is charging. Tesla said in 2017 that it would charge seven cents per kWh for the proprietary fast charges the Semi requires. There’s reason to be skeptical about the proposed charging rate given that Tesla charges Fenske more than 50 cents per kWh at its regular Superchargers. If Semi owners paid the same rate Tesla drivers pay, it would cost $1 million to electrify one million miles, which Ruffo said exceeds the fuel costs of diesel trucks to travel the same distance.

“Elon Musk often states that hydrogen is a waste of time and that even trucks should have a battery pack,” Ruffo says. “Fenske’s calculations show that this is not the case. The Semi is heavy, charging will be a challenge, and there are many other doubts about it.”

Toyota, a company the media would have you believe has dropped the ball addressing emissions and climate change, has made great strides developing a fuel cell electric truck powered by hydrogen. The company in partnership with Kenworth announced last month they’ve developed fuel-cell electric trucks that nearly match the performance of diesel trucks in range and power and are capable of quick refueling requiring minimal downtime.

Notably, Ford CEO Jim Farley appears to be a believer of hydrogen powered pick-up trucks. Veering from his usual EV hype, Farley recently admitted that for people with towing requirements, electric trucks are useless.

“If you’re pulling 10,000 pounds, an electric truck is not the right solution. And 95 percent of our customers tow more than 10,000 pounds,” Farley told reporters at the Churchill Downs horse track, where he unveiled his redesigned Super Duty line of gas guzzling pickup trucks. “This is a really important segment for our country, and it will probably go hydrogen fuel cell before it goes pure electric.”

Automotive News, October 2, 2022

Super Duty trucks are often used for commercial purposes, yet California cities, following Newsom’s lead, increasingly are banning new gas stations, which could lessen competition and lead to even higher fuel prices. Newsom’s 2035 gas vehicle ban only applies to passenger cars, so Farley has little incentive to accelerate development of a fully hydrogen powered fuel cell pickup.

There are some low-hanging fruit actions that could immediately reduce California’s emissions, such as advocating a rule that all private jets must be fully occupied to land or take off in the state. A report by Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based clean transportation advocacy group, estimated that a private jet can emit two tons of carbon dioxide in a single hour, less than a quarter of what an average European emits in an entire year.

The Los Angeles Times this week reported how soaring private plane usage is harming the communities surrounding Van Nuys airport in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. Newsom wouldn’t want to alienate private plane owners because they are the ultra-wealthy people he pals around with.

Newsom’s campaign to battle a move by disgruntled Californians to remove him from office last year received funding from 23 billionaires, including money managers George Soros and Jim Simons, who don’t even live in California. Virtually all of Newsom’s business  ventures were financed by Gordon Getty, the son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, a family friend who reportedly regarded Newsom as a son. 

Newsom recently accused the oil companies of “ripping off” Californians. As a state resident whose taxes help fund Newsom’s $219,000 annual salary, I argue that he’s the one ripping us off.

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