While most Minnesotans want to combat climate change, there is considerable opposition to the approach Governor Tim Walz is taking on both energy policy and electric vehicles. That was the key finding of a new poll released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a nonpartisan government agency.
Several voices have criticized the governor’s plan to change the state’s transportation sector, including tying our state’s policy on electric vehicles to California standards. Under the rule, which would go into effect in 2024, Minnesota vehicle dealerships would be required to maintain a certain percentage of their stock as electric vehicles, limiting customer choice and essentially dictating the vehicle marketplace through government regulation.
Following California Mandates
Minnesotans aren’t fans of that approach. According to the poll results, 70 percent of respondents believe that the goal of increasing the number of electric cars and light trucks on Minnesota roads to 20% by 2030 goes too far. Similarly, respondents ranked creating a regional electric vehicle charging network, developing a Minnesota strategic electric vehicle plan, and establishing a Clean Fuel Standard as the lowest, second-lowest, and third-lowest priorities for energy policies Minnesota should be pursuing.
As the Center for American Experiment explains, “These surveys show that a vast majority of Minnesota stakeholders think that many of the energy policies proposed by the Walz administration go too far.” I am concerned our governor is ignoring the legislative process. If the mandate is good for Minnesota, Governor Walz should have no qualms about bringing it to the legislative.
That’s one reason significant momentum has resulted in the Minnesota Consumer Choice of Fuel Act sponsored by Minnesota State Senator Andrew Mathews. The bill, recently passed by the Minnesota Senate, would repeal Governor Walz’s electric vehicle mandate and allows Minnesota to decide the vehicles they drive and use. Specifically, Senator Mathews’s bill “prohibits a state agency from adopting rules that restrict consumer choice of motorized equipment, based on the equipment itself or the equipment’s fuel source.” That includes not just consumer vehicles, but yard tools, off-road vehicles, recreational vehicles, farm equipment, or heavy-duty trucks.
Such legislation should be welcome news to a Minnesota public that is saying clearly, as evidenced by this recent state-commissioned survey, that the goals established by the Walz Administration are out of touch with the public interest and need.
Why Minnesota Isn’t a Fit for California’s Electric Vehicle Mandates.
There are good reasons for such opposition. For starters, California rules simply don’t fit well with realities in Minnesota. California is willing to accept aggressive vehicle measures in part because the state’s air quality consistently ranks as one of the worst in the nation. In addition, California lawmakers are already considering state standards to incorporate a complete ban on the sale of gas-powered passenger vehicles by model year 2035. On the other hand, overall air quality levels in our state have been improving and I expect this trend to continue.
Second, Governor Walz’s electric vehicle mandate risks upsetting the state’s significant agriculture industry. Minnesota now ranks fourth nationally in ethanol production and is home to three biodiesel plants, with 19,000 full-time jobs depending on the sector. Corn and soybean farmers produce the crops that make these fuels, meaning arbitrary mandates that prioritize electric vehicles over those powered by ethanol-blended fuels and biodiesel could jeopardize jobs. In fact, a study by the Agricultural Retailers Association found that a worst-case scenario, a ban on combustion vehicles, would decrease total U.S. net farm income by up to $27 billion.
Need Another Approach
Tying Minnesota’s vehicle market to California regulations isn’t the right approach to combating climate change, a point that respondents to this latest survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made crystal clear. Governor Walz’s plan simply goes too far. Rather than issue mandates and cast Minnesota’s lot with California, we should follow our own path, one that reflects the unique nature of Minnesota and recognizes the preferences of consumers and the value of our agriculture sector. These are reasons to reverse the Walz plan on electric vehicles and choose a different and more suitable path.