SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – As the U.S. inches toward its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, New York is paving its way to being a frontrunner in the country’s sustainability efforts. Just this month, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill promising no more sales of fossil fuel-burning passenger vehicles by 2035 and for larger vehicles by 2045.
So what kind of environmental impact will this have on New Yorkers?
“Transportation represents the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State,” said Conor Bambrick, Director of Climate Policy at Environmental Advocates of New York.
He said, not only do internal combustion vehicles produce record levels of carbon dioxide, but it also has adverse health impacts.
“Gasoline and diesel fuel vehicles are responsible for smog, toxic particulate matter that drives adverse health outcomes impacting children and those that suffer from chronic disease,” he said.
Charles Driscoll, a Professor of Environmental Systems and Civic and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University, noted that there are several detrimental impacts to the production of fine particulate matter from cars.
“So there are people who have respiratory problems and fine particulate matter can contribute to heart attacks, and increased hospitalization, asthma attacks, things like that,” said Driscoll.
However, this transition won’t happen right away. The average lifespan of a car is around 12 years. So, if someone buys a gasoline-fueled car in 2034, it could still be on the road for over a decade.
Not to mention manufacturers still have to develop alternate methods to producing electricity for vehicles. Wayne Grove, an economics professor at LeMoyne College, said he expects oil to still be used in that regard.
“My guess is that initially, there’ll probably still be a fair amount of oil used to produce electricity, but oil will no longer being used in cars,” said Grove.
He, along with other economists, is curious about what kind of implications this change will have on the state’s economy and labor market.
The biggest change in the automotive sector that he expects is the transition of jobs from the oil and gas industry to renewable energy.
“There’s now gonna be a lot of new jobs, of course, in terms of electricity generation,” said Grove.
However, that’s a completely different skill set needed for those new jobs. David Popp, a Syracuse University professor specializing in environmental economics, said that kind of transition is a big undertaking.
“Within that sector, it’s a big transition in terms of the type of work that’s needed, the types of things that are done,” said Popp.
Popp said one huge source of jobs will be the efforts to provide the infrastructure to support electric cars.
“There needs to be big investments in infrastructure, building charging stations, and so on,” said Popp. “And so to the extent that people that might be displaced, can be put to work and things like that, that would certainly be useful.”
Charging stations are also a hot topic in the discussion of renewable cars. Unlike in large metropolitan areas, drivers in upstate New York are generally going on much longer trips. While gas stations will most likely transition to charging stations, a fully charged car just doesn’t go as far as a full tank of gas so Popp said long distances may present a challenge.
“Think about what using an electric vehicle might look like in New York City, compared to being upstate, where there’s not as much charging infrastructure, people are driving for longer periods of time,” he said.
Bambrick added that some at-home charging situations will be tricky.
“There are challenges also for, you know, apartment dwellers, multifamily buildings–you have to figure out how to and what the charging solutions are there,” said Bambrick.
Grove wonders, when this transition happens, if the government will run another “cash for clunkers” campaign to incentivize the switch to electric cars.
“Because if that doesn’t happen, all that’s going to happen is they’ll get sold to other countries in the world. And they’ll continue to emit all that stuff,” said Grove.
While 2035 seems so far away, many experts, like Driscoll, say this change can’t come soon enough.
“There’s certainly urgency to try to move this as quickly as possible,” said Driscoll. “And it’s good to see New York State out in front on this.”