Guest commentary: Adopting electric vehicle standards would have a negative impact

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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By Elaine Hansen

President Austin Area Chamber  of Commerce

We are now over halfway through 2020, and what a year it has been. I do not know of one person or business that has made it this far emotionally, physically, or economically unscathed. Deep in the middle of the pandemic, a new issue that would harm our auto dealer members and vehicle buyers alike is coming to the forefront: The Walz Administration has decided to move forward with rulemaking to adopt California’s vehicle emissions standards, with the objective of getting more electric vehicles (“EVs”) on the road.

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That’s right, it’s as perplexing as it sounds — amid a global pandemic and the resulting economic distress, Gov. Walz wants to adopt California’s (a state that is different from Minnesota in almost every way possible) emissions standards. What would this mean for Minnesota?

First, Gov. Walz has chosen to bypass our elected officials by doing this through Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) rulemaking to adopt California’s standards, which are made by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) a board of unelected California bureaucrats. Once these rules are adopted, they cannot be modified to better fit Minnesota’s needs — we follow them as they are and subject to any changes CARB makes in the future.

If that is not bad enough, the California standard is also currently subject to a federal lawsuit between a number of states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We would be signing up for rules written by California, for California, of which we do not even know the fate. At the bare minimum, the MPCA should wait until that court case is resolved before locking us into an unknown future.

That is a lot of acronyms — very often a sign of troubling policymaking all on its own. So, what does Walz think he is accomplishing here?

Walz’s goal is to get more EVs on the road in Minnesota in order to reduce vehicle emissions. While a laudable goal, the method is puzzling. A recent survey by the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association showed that demand for EVs in our state remains extremely low — only five percent of survey respondents are very likely to consider EVs when purchasing their next vehicle, and a full sixty-six percent are not interested in EVs at this time. The cars they do want — trucks, vans, and SUVs — would be more difficult to buy.

One question: why is Gov. Walz forcing cars Minnesotans do not want on them, while making the vehicles they do want more difficult to buy?

On top of very low demand for EVs, the rule increases the cost of all new vehicles in Minnesota. This increase could be anywhere from $800-$2,500 per vehicle. Even the MPCA acknowledges that costs will increase as a result of adopting California’s standards. In the same survey of Minnesota voters, cost was the number one factor when choosing what vehicle to purchase. Adoption of California’s rules would hurt consumers’ pocketbooks, while negatively impacting dealers’ business.

These are only a few ways Minnesota would be negatively impacted if the Walz Administration adopts California’s rules. And it is important to note that these rules were proposed under pre-COVID assumptions, so the impact would certainly be even more devastating now. We need to support our dealers, consumers and communities and make things easier for them to succeed. We need to put this on hold and make rules that are right for Minnesota.