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ADV NewsCalifornia Town Bans New Gas Stations, County Seeks To Follow Suit

California Town Bans New Gas Stations, County Seeks To Follow Suit

A big shift is happening in Sonoma County. Will the rest of the country follow?

Published on 09.14.2021

As great swaths of California burn again this year, much of the local conversation revolves around climate change and what can be done to slow it. One town in the wine country thinks banning construction of new gas stations and new gas pumps is a step in the right direction.

Petaluma, one of California’s oldest towns, lies in a nest of rolling hills just off Highway 101 in Sonoma County, some 37-miles north of San Francisco. Thanks to aggressive measures put in place during the 70s to limit sprawl, it has maintained a ranchland feel while nurturing the crunchy, California-centric vibe both residents and tourists expect from the Northern California coastal and wine-country regions. 


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The city’s ban, which began as a one-year moratorium in 2019 and continued as such through 2020, was signed into permanent law in March, 2021. By doing so, Petaluma became the first city in the U.S. to ban new gas stations and pumps. As reported by The Guardian, the motion had plenty of local support, including from a band of young activists who contend this is just one of many steps that need to be taken to ensure a livable future. The ban has been so popular in fact, that the whole of Sonoma County is considering similar action, to be voted on as soon as this month. Supporters of the initiative hope the movement continues to reach other cities.

California town bans new gas stations

The seed that started the process was an application for a brand-new, corporate-owned 14-pump station in Petaluma. City councilor D’Lynda Fischer, who championed the ban, was immediately against it, and with good reason. Firstly, it would have been overkill — the 17th petrol station in a 14.5-square-mile city of 60,000. On top of that, what Petaluma and the surrounding region really need are more charging stations to service its nation-leading number of electric vehicle owners. 

The small town’s energetic actions to fight climate change, which includes a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2025, five years ahead of California’s goal, have fueled a new flash point in our nation’s already heated debate over the demise of fossil and biofuels. 

What does it really mean to ban new gas stations? 

Well, for motorcyclists a future with fewer petrol stations might look just fine, especially if the development of the swap-and-go motorcycle battery technology we’ve previously reported on keeps building momentum (vending stations already exist in some Asian countries). There’s certainly a lot of backing from the manufacturers, with KTM AG, Honda, Yamaha Motor, and scooter manufacturer, Piaggio joining forces earlier this year as an official consortium dedicated to the development of universal standards for swappable battery cells to be used in future electric motorcycles and other light e-vehicles. 

Swap-and-go battery station
Swap-and-go battery stations already exist in future-forward countries like Taiwan.

So for those who end up piloting an e-bike from the inevitable array of future options headed our way, you might be able to pull up to an automated display and swap your battery as easily as your 20-lb propane tank. 

There’s also a possible future that includes synthetic fuels, made carbon neutral by using renewable energy sources to power their refinement process. Some of the existing petrol stations could be reconfigured to service this new fuel and most bikes would need very little adaptation to run syngas. 

Certainly, there’s plenty of interest in the synthetic fuel option, including from major players like Ducati, BMW and McLaren, as well as the Dakar organization, which has pledged to become oil revenue independent by 2030. 

Ducati seeks non-electric solutions for zero emissions
Big players like Ducati are looking carefully at non-electric solutions for zero or minimal emissions, such as carbon-neutral synthetic fuel. Photo: Mike Levon.

As for a small town in California not granting permits for new petrol fueling stations (which Petaluma’s City Councilor Fischer wants you to know are not mom-and-pop businesses, but rather rich, corporate brands being turned away), it’s likely the first pebble to fall ahead of a slow-moving landslide. Especially in states like California, which has the highest percentage of new e-vehicles sales in the country —  11% in the first three months of 2021 compared to a national average of just 2.3%.

According to The Guardian, there are currently about 168,000 gas stations open for business in the U.S., which service nearly 276 million registered vehicles. Every single one of these parcels is a toxic “brown site” that would require massive cleanup to reuse. When you consider that alongside the rise in e-vehicle production, and the unavoidable global shift to carbon neutral energy coming over the next couple decades, does it really make sense to build additional petrol fueling stations anywhere?

Another thing we can likely agree on after witnessing several years of near-constant, weather-related natural disasters, is that the climate really is changing. And regardless of whether you feel that change is natural or manmade, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to slow it? 

Because people living in drought-weary towns like Petaluma, and wildfire-ravaged counties like Sonoma, are sure ready to try. 

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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18 thoughts on “California Town Bans New Gas Stations, County Seeks To Follow Suit

  1. This story has all of the perfect points in it to drive ignorant, knee-jerk trumpers crazy. You can just hear their fingers twitching on the keyboard right now.

    • I laugh at those in California and the high prices they pay for almost everything. Then I watch them complain to us in other states when their state burns up because of mismanagement. Same with water conservation. Then I watch as Fortune 500 companies move (in droves) from California to my state. Enjoy.

    • The thing is, most of us regular folk come here to read about adventure motorcycles, not promotion of politics either in the articles or the comments. There are plenty of other places for that. I’m not a Trumper or a Biden fellow. What I am is sick of political posturing invading every aspect of life.

      I won’t be reading Adv Pulse any more. Motorcycles are an escape for me, including (especially?) from political bickering. You’re probably right about the Trumpers, but there are a whole lot of the rest of us who are silently sick of the politicization of everything under the sun who are just turned off by all of this coming from both sides.

  2. “And regardless of whether you feel that change is natural or manmade, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to slow it?” No! Stopping it is futile. It is a natural process that no amount of fairy dust will change. What the future needs is to figure out how to deal with it. It will suck for those in 50 years saying “We should have spent the last 50 years trying to determine what we were going to do”.

  3. I’ve always loved the fact that 50 years ago we didn’t have climate change or global warming…..
    Suffice to say its here now. Next, someone’s going to tell us water freezes when it gets cold.

  4. We don’t have the electrical infrastructure to charge tens of millions of electrical vehicles … especially in irrational states who refuse to build power stations or upgrade their transmission lines. It’s gonna be amusing to watch vacuum-skulled Kalifornians complain about the brown-outs that prevent them from charging their “clean” e-vehicles.

  5. NO WE SHOULD NOT SPEND TRILLIONS IN tax dollars to line the pockets of the likes of Al gore and those betting on phantom technologies . Solindra MUCH?

  6. Wake me up when real estate prices crash in Malibu, La Jolla, Newport, West Palm, Martha’s Vineyard, etc. and our woke masters move to higher ground. Until then, eff off with this climate nonsense.

  7. Yeah I’m so jealous I left there 15 years ago and don’t miss it at all. And it’s 50 times worse now than it was back then. You people are just plain stupid. I can only take so much stupid before I explode. You’re fortunate I left.

  8. The earth’s atmosphere has been changing for 5 billion years. If humans are the problem, why are we hell bent on an ever increasing population?

    In 1955, the year I was born, there were about 2.5 billion souls, today nearly 8 billion….where’s the problem?

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