Opinion Columns & Blogs

Washington should lead in phasing out gasoline

As Washington state and Olympia seek ways to combat climate change, we should adopt a key strategy advanced by a growing list of countries and companies: phasing out gasoline and diesel.

Germany, India, Norway and the Netherlands plan to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by or before 2030, and France by 2040. Volvo will stop selling gas-only vehicles in 2019, while Tesla and Chevrolet are already making affordable cars that get more than 215 miles per charge.

Unfortunately, Washington is falling behind in the clean-transportation race. Our electric charging infrastructure is patchy and inadequate. Incentives for purchasing electric cars are minimal. Gasoline consumption is high and growing, and we have no plan for phasing it out. Of the 6.4 million cars and trucks registered in Washington, a tiny number—about 25,000--are electric.

There are many economic, environmental and public health reasons to get off gas:

▪ Cars and trucks account for nearly 45 percent of our region’s carbon footprint.

▪ We used a record 2.78 billion gallons of gasoline in Washington State in 2015. Every gallon of gasoline releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

▪ Washington spends more than $6 billion annually on gasoline, most of which goes to out-of-state fossil fuel companies to finance drilling, fracking, pipelines and destructive environmental practices.

▪ Driving electric vehicles will save the average Washington family about $1,200 a year in fuel costs.

▪ Washington has clean and low-cost hydroelectric power, making electric vehicles a sensible and cost-effective solution.

▪ Car and truck exhaust is responsible for 53,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Washington State and Olympia should implement the following policies:

▪ Adopt a phase-out date of 2030 for the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles, consistent with the global trend.

▪ Plan for and build the charging infrastructure necessary for mass electric vehicle adoption.

▪ Create incentives to spur the sale of electric vehicles including preferential HOV lane access, lower tolls, vehicle registration discounts, and preferred parking.

▪ Increase funding for infrastructure for public transportation, bicycling and walking.

Governor Inslee recently committed, with the governors of California and New York, to abide by the Paris climate accord and to aggressively cut carbon emissions. Phasing out our use of liquid fossil fuels will meet that commitment.

Washington state and Olympia and have a strong environmental ethos and a track record of leadership on green initiatives that are key to our region’s economic success and quality of life. We don’t take our cues on climate from the Trump administration, but rather from our peers in leading countries. Furthermore, we should not breathe toxic auto exhaust when the Germans, Norwegians, Dutch and French are not.

By phasing out gasoline and diesel, Washington can become an innovation hub for a fossil-fuel free world. Let’s not cede leadership to Germany, India, Silicon Valley or other regions. Rather, let’s create a world-class clean transportation system that improves our health, wealth and climate.

Matthew Metz, a Seattle lawyer, is executive director of Coltura, www.coltura.org, an organization advocating for a gasoline-free America by 2040, and general counsel of Drive Electric Washington.