With summertime temperatures already in the 90s, many Minnesota families may be thinking about a road trip to a cool body of water. The question is what type of vehicle do you trust to get you and your family to your destination — one you chose, or one California officials chose for you?
This past December, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with the backing of Gov. Tim Walz, proposed a rule that would require vehicle retailers in Minnesota to stock a certain number of electric vehicles, regardless of customer demand. The rule works by tying Minnesota's car standards to California's Zero Emission Vehicle program, hoping to force electric vehicles onto Minnesota's roads rather than relying on the open market.
The problems with this proposal are abundant. For starters, Minnesotans don't particularly want electric vehicles, with just 5% of car customers saying they're very likely to consider an electric vehicle for their next car. Rather, data show many Minnesotans prefer pickups and SUVs, vehicle types that would be limited if the governor's rule goes into effect. Under the rule, Minnesotans would essentially lose their right to an open vehicle market, with an estimated 18,000 electric vehicles forced onto Minnesota car lots by government mandate.
As you can imagine, there are other practical hurdles to an electric vehicle mandate in Minnesota. Much of rural Minnesota lacks the infrastructure to accommodate widespread electric vehicle use. If you "run out of juice" in Bemidji in the winter, it will be a bigger problem than if you're in San Diego. Plus, electric vehicles aren't cheap, costing around $13,000 more on average than vehicles with internal-combustion engines. Under the proposed rule, Minnesotans can expect to pay $1,139 more per vehicle, whether electric or not.
Even more concerning are revelations made by the MPCA admitting to a series of miscalculations when projecting the benefits of this rule for Minnesotans. In one estimate it was originally said the proposed rule would reduce 3,032 tons of particulate matter, or air pollution, from tailpipe vehicle emissions over the first 10 years of implementation. The revised number was only 332 tons — 89% lower than the original estimate.
Guy Caruso, former administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, addresses this and other miscalculations in a comment to the docket making an important point that electric vehicles can be part of the climate change solution, but the miscalculations call into question the very basis of the rule-making. Misrepresentation of data, whether intended or not, is highly concerning, especially when the public expects their government to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Coincidentally, these errors come on the heels of a February finding by the California state auditor that the California Air Resources Board "overstated the GHG emissions reductions its [low- and zero-emission vehicle] incentive programs have achieved." It turns out that the California model, on which Minnesota's electric vehicle mandate has been modeled, overstated its value. Sound familiar?
Sixteen retail members of the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association have applied for funding through public grant programs to install EV charging stations. Let Minnesota retailers and consumers have choices and allow free-market buying dictate our future of energy.
My hope is for Gov. Walz and the MPCA to let the Legislature fully examine the rule and weigh in, in a proper manner where additional scrutiny and diligence is warranted. The Legislature, which represents the communities that will be impacted by this mandate, should be the rule-making body on an issue of this magnitude, not the MPCA, which wants to unilaterally adopt the standards of another state that's drastically different from Minnesota.
As owners and operators of retail fueling stations across Minnesota, we look forward to fueling a solution that works for all of the state.
Lance Klatt is the executive director of the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association.