Repowering our transportation system away from fossil fuels is essential. For the overwhelming number of vehicles, the best alternative to fossil fuels, by far, is electrification. Since our supply of electricity from renewable energy sources is already cleaner than in the past, charging electric vehicles (EVs) is already much less polluting than using any other power source. The advantages of electrification will only grow as our electricity supply keeps getting cleaner. Major car companies are aggressively shifting to EVs, and the price of electric vehicles will continue to drop.
With the urgency of electrifying our transportation as quickly as possible, it is crucial that we keep focused on real solutions and reject outdated technologies like ethanol, which are climate polluting and cause environmental harms — including loss of pollinators and drinking water pollution — with few benefits. Continuing to invest in ethanol distracts from and needlessly delays the focus we need on electrification.
What Governor Walz has done:
- Advanced Clean Cars: Gov. Walz and his administration through the MPCA have advanced Clean Cars Minnesota, a regulatory program that does not require legislative approval. Minnesota is on track to become the first Midwest state to adopt a clean cars standard, which will require auto manufacturers to offer electric vehicles currently available in other states but not available to Minnesota customers. To date, 14 states and the District of Columbia—representing over 35% of new vehicles sales in the nation—have already adopted such standards. Clean Cars Minnesota is one important piece of the solution to reduce climate emissions from the transportation sector and meet air quality standards –which will ease the harmful effects of asthma, chronic heart disease, and other health conditions exacerbated by toxic vehicle pollution. And, it will expand choices for the many consumers who wish to drive EVs. However, it is not sufficient by itself to achieve the urgent transportation changes we need.
- Proposed to increase the ethanol mandate: The Walz administration is promoting E-15, which consists of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol. E-15 is not carbon-free and is not a serious solution to climate change. Originally developed as an economic development tool, ethanol is now advertised as a pro-climate alternative, even by some who have been known climate deniers. The case for ethanol is dramatically less persuasive than ever before because electric vehicles have advanced so much. Since electrification is far cleaner, the near-term role of biofuels should be limited to the “hardest-to-decarbonize” vehicles: heavy cargo trucks, construction equipment or aviation where no electric alternative exists. And EV alternatives keep growing — last year’s announcement from the CEO of General Motors confirms that available EVs will shortly include not just cars but a variety of pickup and SUVs.
- Failed to propose sufficient investments in EV infrastructure: Converting to electric vehicles that meet our climate goals will also require investments in charging infrastructure and rebates for purchase of EVs. In his proposed budget, Gov. Walz has offered minimal funding for charging infrastructure and nothing for EV rebates. Worse, the Governor is spending far more money on biofuels like ethanol.
What Governor Walz should do:
- Stop promoting the E-15 ethanol mandate to address the climate crisis. We don’t have time for false promises.
- Accelerate EV adoption by a) incentivizing charging stations, with the public sector leading by example at its own facilities and b) incentivizing purchase of EVs, again with the government leading by example with its own fleets. Funding currently spent on biofuels should be redirected here.
- Start by supporting, and fully funding, HF 1668 / SF 1864, authored by Rep. Zack Stephenson and Sen. David Senjem.
More benefits for all Minnesotans:
Direct investments in electrifying cars, pickups, SUVs and buses and charging infrastructure statewide would help Minnesota do its part to reduce emissions. Such investments would also reduce air pollution and the resulting health impacts and health care costs. The revolution in electrification is happening simultaneously with a revolution in the sharing economy and in fleet services. If care is taken to ensure equal access to such services and that charging infrastructure includes rental properties, it could reduce racial and economic disparities in access to jobs.