Big Tent Ideas

DAVID BLACKMON: Gavin Newsom’s Newest Whopper: Mandating Electric Trains That Don’t Even Exist

(Photo by John G. Mabanglo-Pool/Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
David Blackmon David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
Font Size:

Anytime you assume that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California state government has achieved peak regulatory insanity, rest assured you will soon find your assumption was mistaken.

The latest example of the effort by California Democrats to force the Golden State into full energy collapse comes from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which recently applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a waiver under the Clean Air Act that would enable it to implement new regulations forcing the electrification of freight trains.

Just one problem: The electric trains that CARB wishes to force into action beginning in 2030 do not currently exist. (RELATED: CHUCK DEVORE: Gavin Newsom Is Determined To Have The Highest Gas Prices In The Country)


CARB needs EPA’s waiver due to the fact that the federal agency must approve state regulations related to the Clean Air Act that vary materially from federal regulations.

Under its own standards, it is up to EPA to decide whether “there is inadequate lead time to permit the development of the necessary technology giving appropriate consideration to the cost of compliance within that time.” To be clear, the technology for electric freight locomotives currently exists.

The problem is there is no viable market for them due to the exorbitant costs involved, and the fact that the prototypes that have been produced are not envisioned to run alone, but rather in tandem with diesel locomotives to ensure reliability.

So, if you’re a regulator at Newsom’s CARB, the solution becomes obvious: Mandate the artificial creation of the market by making the cost of non-compliance even higher. It is a form of evil genius that is spreading across the country’s entire energy system.

The lone apparent limiter to CARB’s excess is the longstanding legal principle that regulation of the nation’s interstate rail system is the sole province of the federal government. As the Institute for Energy Research points out, an approval of CARB’s waiver application “will not only affect rail travel in California, but nationwide as well, as the same locomotive is used across state borders. Switching over fleets of diesel-powered locomotives at the California border would significantly slow down rail traffic if it could be done at all.”

Even green energy friendly Bloomberg, in a piece headlined “California May Break the Freight-Rail Network,” expresses concern about the potential that EPA under Joe Biden could abrogate this legal principle that has served the nation well since the 19th century: “CARB would require the railroads to pay into a restricted trust each year, with the funds earmarked for compliance.

This assessment isn’t negligible: For the bigger railroads, it would amount to some $800 million apiece each year — or more than 20% of their total current spending — to comply with a single state’s regulation. That’s money that might otherwise be invested in research and development, safety improvements and so on. Smaller operators may simply be out of luck: CARB concedes that one risk of this rule is that “some of these businesses would be eliminated.”

Oh, well, what’s the sacrificing of a few small businesses in the grand scheme of pursuing the Green New Deal dreams of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez? After all, employees of those companies could take former President Barack Obama’s famous advice and “learn to code,” right? Sure.

In its excellent analysis of CARB’s proposed regulation, IER sums up the most likely negative impacts, writing, “The U.S. supply chain would be threatened as railroads would be forced to use unproven technology to power locomotives and remove locomotives with many years of useful remaining life out of service. The rule would create new logistical challenges for the timely movement of food and essential goods in and through California.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board published a May 19 editorial that summarizes this and a flood of additional anti-business, anti-consumer climate regulations as “a battleground gift to Donald Trump” in the presidential campaign, given that many of the tossup states play copycat to the actions of Newsom’s regulators.

It is no accident that California’s energy prices across the board are the highest in the nation given the direct cause-and-effect relationship between Newsom’s regulatory excess and those costs. This waiver request from CARB is one Biden’s EPA could and should head off at the pass.

Unfortunately, there seems little reason to expect that to happen.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact