'California of the East Coast': New Jersey Moves to Ban New Gas-Powered Cars By 2035

Dem governor Murphy pledges to use 'every tool … to combat the intensifying climate crisis'

Phil Murphy (Getty Images)
July 19, 2023

Democratic governor Phil Murphy made good on his promise to make New Jersey the "California of the East Coast," announcing a proposal that bars the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

As part of his "Energy Master Plan," Murphy on Monday unveiled environmental rules that require vehicle manufacturers to make 100 percent of their passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs electric by 2035. Murphy said the move "build[s] upon our nation-leading record of bold climate action while delivering on our promise to utilize every tool at our disposal to combat the intensifying climate crisis."

Murphy's proposal aligns New Jersey with California and other deep-blue states. The Democrat's electric car rule, Advanced Clean Cars II, originated in California—the state's Air Resources Board approved it in August 2022 and today says it requires "all new passenger vehicles sold in California to be zero emissions by 2035." Murphy, who succeeded Republican governor Chris Christie, told former Golden State governor Jerry Brown in 2018 that he aspires to make New Jersey "the California of the East Coast."

Murphy in a Monday press release touted the proposed rule, which he said "does not impose any obligations on consumers or car dealers." Republicans quickly criticized that claim, with state lawmaker Ed Durr saying Murphy's "extreme energy policies will force people to replace their affordable gas-powered cars with more expensive EVs." Durr also called Murphy a hypocrite who recently used "taxpayer dollars to purchase a fleet of new gas-powered SUVs to shuttle him and other Democrat leaders across the state."

"It's like John Kerry with his multiple mansions flying around the world on his private jet while telling the rest of us that we're responsible for climate change," Durr said. "The rest of us are forced to suffer while they are the real problem."

New Jersey environmentalists defended the electric vehicle mandate, with the state's Sierra Club calling the program "one of the most important policies for New Jersey to adopt." Some experts, however, doubt that electric vehicles will actually help the environment. Electric vehicles require large amounts of mined, processed, and refined minerals to be built, meaning the cars roll off the lot having produced considerably more carbon emissions than their gas-powered counterparts. As Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark Mills argued in a recent report, driving an electric vehicle instead of gas-powered one could "lead to a net increase in emissions."

Murphy's proposed rule is likely to prompt backlash, given that electric cars are not very popular with American consumers. Less than one-fifth of Americans say they're very likely to make their next vehicle an electric one, according to an Associated Press poll published in April, with respondents citing the high cost of electric vehicles. The cars on average cost about $10,000 more than their gas-powered counterparts.

Murphy's announcement marks his second major green energy push this month. The Democrat just two weeks ago signed a bill approving major tax breaks for a foreign green energy company that is set to build a massive offshore wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City. State energy experts and Republican lawmakers say the project will raise electric bills, the Washington Free Beacon reported.