Electric vehicles are all the rage, in particular among public officials who do not have to face voters. Not so much among consumers, who know their individual needs and strive to make purchase decisions that satisfy them. These realities explain why the proponents of policies forcing ever more EVs upon the market prefer to implement such requirements in ways insulated from democratic accountability.
That is an accurate summary of the current political campaign in Minnesota to expand by regulatory fiat the market for EVs, by requiring that auto dealers in the state sell a certain number of them or face a penalty, moving the state toward California’s “zero emissions” automotive standard. The proposed mandate would engender massive dislocation and increased costs in the state’s transportation and agricultural sectors, adverse effects that would be borne by virtually every resident in the state. It would also create a series of large and adverse environmental impacts that the proponents of this change prefer not to discuss. Finally, it is easy to suspect that one key objective behind the mandate is to force a shift of population and economic activity away from rural, exurban, and suburban regions in the state toward urban areas, thus creating a massive transfer of wealth from residents, business owners, and workers in the former regions toward those in the latter.
The usual climate “crisis” justification for the EV mandate does not withstand scrutiny: Minnesota greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions account for 1.7 percent of the U.S. total (Table 2). Net-zero emissions by the entire U.S. would reduce global temperatures by 0.1 degrees by 2100, using the Environmental Protection Agency climate model under assumptions consistent with the modern peer-reviewed literature on the temperature effects of reduced GHG emissions. (The entire Paris agreement: 0.17 degrees.) Elimination of all Minnesota GHG emissions would reduce temperatures by about 17 ten-thousands of a degree. Elimination of all Minnesota GHG emissions from the transportation sector (about 35 percent of the total) would reduce global temperatures in 2100 by about 6 ten-thousandths of a degree. How large are the costs that the state’s residents ought to bear to achieve such laughable outcomes?
Those costs would be enormous. The proposed artificial increase in the market share of EVs will require indirect subsidies in the form of higher prices for conventional vehicles, with part of those sales revenues used to reduce the prices of the EVs. That is why a regulatory requirement is necessary: EVs cannot satisfy consumer needs and preferences. Minnesotans should prepare to pay thousands of dollars more for conventional autos and trucks. Meanwhile, EVs cost an average of around $20,000 more than their conventional counterparts. And if the pricing distortions collapse the market for conventional vehicles or fail to yield the EV market share demanded by the regulators, the only available remedy will be direct subsidies financed by the taxpayers.
EVs have poor range, particularly in cold climates, long charging times, and other major disadvantages. Such vehicles are not viable for the agricultural sector, for people with lengthy commutes, and for many others who would be forced to pay higher prices for conventional vehicles to subsidize EV purchases by urban residents. And do not let the “zero emissions” label fool you: EVs create their own set of massive environmental problems, among which are the emissions from producing these vehicles and from the power generation needed to charge their batteries. (A power system based mostly on wind and solar power cannot work, simply as a matter of electrical engineering.) There is also the “rare earth” and other toxic metal pollution attendant upon the production of the batteries, the massive disposal problem for the batteries at the end of their useful lives, and on and on. EVs are anything but “clean.”
The EV mandate, by making personal and business transportation much more costly and difficult, would, as noted above, create over time a household and business location shift away from rural, exurban, and suburban regions toward urban centers. More fundamentally, it would serve the broader leftist goal of making massive numbers of ordinary people ever more dependent on government, by making personal transportation vastly more difficult.
California in 2006 became the first state to adopt “climate” policies; the prevailing slogan was “California has to be a leader!” It is no accident that prices for electric power in California now are the fifth-highest in the lower 48 states, an outcome that has imposed real economic suffering upon the poorer residents of the hotter inland regions. The California EV mandate is creating similar adverse effects that are beginning to emerge. And now in Minnesota, various bureaucrats, “experts,” and politicians propose to emulate the California “zero-emissions vehicles” requirement in the Star of the North state. Is there a reason that Minnesota has to be a follower?