France plans to ban all gasoline, diesel vehicles by 2040

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Nicolas Hulot, French minister of ecological transition, announces 2040 ban on vehicles with engines

Nicolas Hulot, French minister of ecological transition, announces 2040 ban on vehicles with engines

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To most North Americans, the idea of banning all vehicles with internal-combustion engines seems unthinkable.

Filling up with gasoline (or diesel) is as American as are dispersed low-density suburbs without mass transit, bike paths, or even sidewalks.

Europeans, more of whom live in cities and most of whom have access to a more balanced set of transportation options, are sometimes more clear-eyed about such matters.

DON'T MISS: Norway's Goal: All New Cars Will Be Emission-Free By 2025 To Cut Carbon (Aug 2015)

Several years ago, Norway announced that the country would phase out sales of new vehicles with combustion engines entirely by 2025, as part of a multipronged policy to cut the country's carbon emissions radically.

The Netherlands followed suit last year, and now it appears France will join the parade—albeit with a later phaseout target year of 2040.

According to The Independent, France plans to ban all gasoline and diesel vehicles from its roads by 2040.

2016 Renault Zoe electric car

2016 Renault Zoe electric car

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2016 Renault Zoe electric car

2016 Renault Zoe electric car

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Renault Zoe and Kangoo ZE electric cars on the Outer Hebrides

Renault Zoe and Kangoo ZE electric cars on the Outer Hebrides

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According to Nicolas Hulot, the country's minister of ecological transition, France will provide financial assistance to buyers to allow them to trade in older cars with combustion engines for newer, zero-emission vehicles.

French speakers can watch a portion of his presentation in a 30-second video embedded at the top of The Independent's article linked above.

The French ban on all vehicles with engines appears to be slightly different from Norway's 2025 deadline, which applies only to sales of new vehicles, and assumes a gradual phaseout of remaining vehicles with combustion engines.

CHECK OUT: Netherlands joins Norway in plans to end new gas, diesel car sales by 2025 (Apr 2016)

The ban is part of the effort by new French president Emmanuel Macron to make France carbon-neutral by 2050, including fulfilling its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement, from which President Donald Trump says the U.S. will withdraw.

Of course, no vehicle is entirely free of associated emissions; even those electric cars plugged into entirely renewable energy carry the carbon footprint of their materials and manufacturing.

That amount of carbon, however, is just a tiny fraction of the carbon dioxide and other gases that are emitted by diesel or gasoline cars when they are accurately assessed to evaluate their entire "wells to wheels" energy use.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (photo by Rijin, via Wikimedia Commons)

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (photo by Rijin, via Wikimedia Commons)

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And France proves to be particularly well suited to achieve radical carbon reductions through adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.

The country's electricity grid is more than half supplied by nuclear energy, the result of a program begun more than half a century ago to ensure French energy independence.

Nuclear plants have their own major challenges—nuclear-waste storage, anyone?—but if the metric is reduction of carbon emission per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, they're right up there with renewables.

CONSIDER THIS: When Will We Start To See 'Tailpipes' On Cars As Morally Wrong? (Nov 2015)

The percentage of nuclear energy is to be cut from its current level to just half of the country's generation mix by 2025, as France adds more renewable energy sources.

Other measures announced today include a fight against deforestation, which reduces natural absorption of atmospheric carbon.

The French Parliament is set to vote this fall on a bill that would end all permits for new exploration of coal, oil, and natural gas in the country.

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