SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Five of the six largest wildfires in California's recorded history ignited in the last six weeks. In that same time, an epic heat wave suffocated the state, making it the hottest August on record. And in the last decade, California wilted in a years-long drought. Maybe nowhere are the climate effects predicted in a warmer world more visible than in California. The state has already committed to get 100% of its electricity from solar and wind and other zero-carbon energy sources by the year 2045. And yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced another plank of his emissions reduction strategy.
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GAVIN NEWSOM: By 2035, in the next 15 years, we will eliminate in the state of California the sales of internal combustion engines.
PFEIFFER: Gov. Newsom, a Democrat, is here with me to talk about this.
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
NEWSOM: It's great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
PFEIFFER: And, governor, to clarify first, this order would affect only new vehicle sales - so no more sales of gas-powered or diesel-powered cars or trucks after 2035 - but would not prevent Californians from owning cars with internal combustion engines past 2035 or selling them on the used vehicle market. Is that right?
NEWSOM: Yeah, that's exactly right. And so that's - I mean, and it's an important point because people, obviously, are right to say, well, you're taking something away, when in fact we're not taking anything away. We're just establishing a frame of consideration that is self-evident to anyone that's watching the trend lines, that this is where the automobile manufacturers are going. This is where the proverbial puck is, and we want to skate towards it, and we want to accelerate a trend you're seeing all around the rest of the world. At least now 15 countries have put out similar signals of their intention to do something along the lines of what California is doing.
PFEIFFER: To make this happen, California would have to add huge numbers of electric charging stations. You need to upgrade your electrical grid, which is already aging, already forced to do rolling blackouts during heat waves. How realistic is this in terms of California's infrastructure?
NEWSOM: We can do it. I mean, the reality is we're already doing it. Thirty-four percent of our electricity comes from renewable places. We have over 50% of all the electricity produced and procured in California from non-carbon sources. We have a plan. We have a strategy. We went through an historic heat wave that was really a heat dome on the entire west coast of the United States.
We are reliant on imports from other Western states, and that's what impacted us for those two days where we had rolling blackouts. But we believe our strategies moving forward will mitigate that. And that primarily will be advanced through battery storage technology, which is really taking shape, which for us is going to be the game changer and, we think, for this nation as it relates to our transition to renewable power.
PFEIFFER: Maybe by 2035, electric cars will be cheaper, but for now, they're typically more expensive than gas-powered. And California clearly is a state with a huge affordability crisis. How do you not make that affordability crisis worse for Californians? And I'm wondering if you're going to add any financial incentives for purchases of electric cars.
NEWSOM: Well, we make it worse by maintaining a status quo, by just going about our business as usual. I mean, what we're trying to do is accelerate investment, accelerate innovation and research development, accelerate manufacturing. And as a consequence, we think that was substantially create a price competitiveness that will bring down the electric vehicle space. It's an economic imperative that we move in this direction to make the kind of investments that are necessary.
PFEIFFER: The Trump administration has already criticized your plan. They're calling it another example of the extreme left, the government trying to dictate how Americans live their lives, Democrats not caring about destroying jobs and raising consumer costs. Your response to all that?
NEWSOM: It gobbledygook. It's nonsense. It's non-factual. It's not even an interesting argument. It's rather stale. Already California has five times more green jobs than we do fossil fuel jobs. Fossil fuels are really the alternative energy. They want to go back to a 19th century mindset where the American manufacturers are not even going to be competitive internationally in terms of where the rest of the world is going with electric vehicles and zero-emission vehicles.
So, I mean, it's - I'm almost honestly - I'm a bit embarrassed by those arguments because they fly in the face not only of the facts, but also where the car companies themselves want to go. I don't know who the Trump administration is doing bidding for, but they're really, really - they're almost troglodytes in terms of their approach to climate and to the economy and where we're going as a nation.
PFEIFFER: I want to go back to climate change being a key driver of this proposal you have because last week, President Trump attended a briefing with you about the California wildfires. And you respectfully explained to him that the vast majority of scientific evidence says climate change is real, it's making wildfires worse. But then shortly afterward, the president had this exchange with another California official, Wade Crowfoot. We've heard it a lot, but let's hear it again.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It'll start getting cooler.
WADE CROWFOOT: I wish...
TRUMP: You just watch.
CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.
TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.
PFEIFFER: But, Gavin Newsom, you didn't push back on that. Why not?
NEWSOM: Well, we pushed back. I don't know of another governor in the United States that sat a few feet away from the president and talked about climate change, reminded him that 57% of the forests in the state of California are under federal jurisdiction, just 3% under state jurisdiction. And the reason I invited Wade Crowfoot was precisely for the reason you just heard.
And so Donald Trump is not interested in evidence. He's not interested in the facts around science and scientific knowledge. He's proven that in terms of COVID in his response. He's obviously proven that in terms of his complete denial of climate change, calling it, as he has not surprisingly, a Chinese hoax. He knows better. That's my personal belief. And we were honored to be able to display a different point of view. And I'm very proud that this state is asserting itself at this level.
PFEIFFER: There are still months of fire season ahead in California. Anything you can feel you can do right now to make California sort of literally less combustible?
NEWSOM: Well, we're doing - and we've put a record amount of money in the last two years into our suppression efforts, our pre-deployment of assets. We've - more technologies light our systems. We've got infrared cameras that we've prepositioned all throughout the state. We're utilizing satellite technology in ways we haven't in the past. We have an historic number of firefighters, new engines that we've put out. So all of that we hope will inure to mitigating some of the worst. But we can't do so unless we get serious about decarbonizing our economy in a much more expedited manner.
PFEIFFER: That's a Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom talking about his plan to end sales of new gas-powered and diesel-powered cars and trucks in California by 2035.
Governor, thanks for talking with us.
NEWSOM: Great to be with you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MARK BARROTT'S "MOKUSHO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.