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Will America be next to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles?

In an effort to meet the agreements of the Paris climate accord, the French government has announced the country will ban the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

They are one of several European countries which have taken strides to reduce their carbon footprint through the ban of vehicles which burn fossil fuels.

Norway, which has the greatest concentration of electric cars globally, aims to allow the sale of only all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands and parts of Germany are considering a 2025 and 2030 phaseout, respectively.

However, the United States has made no such country-wide declaration to cut ties with fossil fuels, despite nine states taking matters into their own hands and introducing zero-emissions plans.

So, does the U.S. government plan to follow suit?

driverless car

Uber employees test a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid car, in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. After taking millions of factory jobs, robots could be coming for a new class of worker: people who drive for a living. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham, File)


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it’s not in the cards.

“Since 1970 in the U.S. under the Clean Air Act, air pollution has been reduced by about 70 percent, while the economy has grown threefold,” an EPA spokesperson said.

“Other than phasing out lead in gasoline in the 70s and early 80s, there has been no need to 'ban' any type of vehicle or fuel, nor do we foresee a need to do so in the future,” they said.

Steady progress in reducing air pollution and advancements in pollution control technology has made this unnecessary, they said.

“Bottom line – U.S. vehicles have been able to carry us more miles and do more work while getting steadily cleaner and more efficient over time. Through continued innovation, we expect this trend to continue well into the future.”

Legislation or not, car makers are taking the initiative to appeal to buyers’ green interests.

In July, Volvo announced it would produce only electric and hybrid vehicles from 2019 onward.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” President and Chief Executive Håkan Samuelsson said.

While Volvo is one of few automakers to publicly commit to this, experts say it makes little difference; electric-only cars are coming, ready or not.

Tony Seba, a Stanford University economist and author of Rethinking Transportation, told the Guardian: “Banning sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040 is a bit like banning sales of horses for road transportation by 2040: there won’t be any to ban.”

Seba forecasts that, globally, cars, buses and trucks will no longer run on fossil fuels within the next eight years.

Instead, electricity-powered land transport will take over, signaling the downfall of the petroleum industry altogether.

“One of the key findings in Rethinking Transportation is that the whole internal combustion engine automobile value chain will collapse within three years of the approval of autonomous vehicles,” he said.

“That is, if autonomous vehicles are approved in 2021, then new [internal combustion engine] vehicle sales are finished by 2024.”

For economic reason alone, Seba predicts autonomous electric vehicles will take over, complete with a 500,000-mile vehicle lifetimes and far lower maintenance, energy, and insurance costs.