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Massachusetts says it will ban sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035

The state follows California's example after it became the first state in the union to announce an identical ban last year.

Tailpipe emissions
It's all part of the Bay State's plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.
David Paul Morris/Stringer/Getty Images

Massachusetts will ban the sale of new cars powered by gasoline and other fossil fuels by 2035, the state announced this weekend in its 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap (PDF). It's the first state to follow California, which this past September rolled out its plan to stop the sale of any new car with an internal-combustion engine, following a disastrous season of wildfires.

As is always the asterisk with these plans, the proposed regulations do not call for a ban on the sale of used cars with a gasoline or diesel-powered engine. Buyers could still get their traditional vehicle from a used car lot. Automakers doing business in California and Massachusetts in the near future, however, will not have the ability to sell a new car that requires visits to the gas station.

In Massachusetts' lengthy roadmap, its state experts note that 27% of local emissions come from light passenger vehicles, and nixing those are just one component of its plan to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050. The state also wants to implement a flexible approach for the heavy-duty vehicle sector, such as buses, large trucks and other equipment. The report rightly notes zero-emission alternative vehicles aren't widely available, or cost far more than a traditional vehicle, so plans and concrete action are limited in this respect.

The report also called for a greater focus on zero-carbon fuels, which some automakers themselves want to invest in. Porsche, notably, comes to mind. Viable alternatives to directly replace fossil fuels don't exist today. In the future, the state said it wants to keep an open mind about using biofuels of some sort to replace the need for fossil fuels in everything from jet fuel to natural gas. Renewable forms of energy also take priority, especially when the report notes the need to ensure a fortified electricity grid for the expected expanded use of home chargers and public charging stations for EVs.

Surely we'll see other states, many of which already follow California's emissions standards, continue to adopt the 2035 ban on new gas-powered cars. New Jersey, for example, floated the idea last year. A change at the top of the federal government could spur policy change nationally, as President-elect Joe Biden, who has promised to confront "the existential threat of climate change," prepares to take office this month.

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