Electric vehicles are cleaning up California’s air, but mostly for the affluent. The same will be true in Minnesota

Last week, Bloomberg reported on a study concluding the air-quality improvements stemming from California’s electric vehicle (EV) subsidies go to rich people, not those living in low-income areas. The findings are perhaps the least surprising of any study in history.

According to Bloomberg:

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Miami analyzed the geographic distribution of more than 400,000 rebates issued in California since 2010 for the purchase of electric vehicles. They then modeled estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, as well as PM 2.5 — particulate matter 2.5 micrometers and smaller in length that’s found in vehicle exhaust and power plant emissions.

California offers generous $7,500 rebates for EV buyers on top of any federal subsidies that may exist. Unsurprisingly, only 7 percent of these state rebates went to communities that California considers disadvantaged, and 46 percent went to the “least disadvantaged,” also known as the wealthiest, communities.

Not only did the EV subsidies end up in wealthy areas, but so too did the air quality improvements:

Residents in better-off areas are also breathing easier: PM2.5 emissions fell a median of nearly 0.7 kilograms per year in those census tracts, four times the median reduction in disadvantaged communities. Researchers found that PM2.5 pollution actually rose in 17% of disadvantaged areas, which are home to 39% of California’s fossil fuel power plants. Those communities also experienced smaller reductions in other air pollutants in contrast to wealthier areas, according to the analysis of 8,057 census tracts in California.

“These communities receive far fewer rebates and therefore see substantially less air quality improvement as a result of decreased tailpipe emissions,” said Jaye Mejía-Duwan, the study’s lead author and a PhD student in UC Berkeley’s environmental science, policy and management program. Mejía-Duwan said low-income neighborhoods often bear the brunt of increased power plant pollution that results from charging EVs located in distant wealthier areas.

EV advocates in Minnesota claim that disadvantaged communities living near highways will benefit from better air quality as more EVs hit the road, thus reducing tailpipe emissions. However, the study found that an increase in EVs on the road increased particulate matter due to heavier cars increasing wear and tear on tires and brakes:

The more recent rebate study makes clear that electric vehicles are not a panacea when it comes to PM2.5 pollution, as overall particulate emissions increased in California. That’s because while EVs eliminate tailpipe PM2.5 emissions, they can throw off more particles from tires and brakes due to the weight added by heavy battery packs. 

This study is a devastating blow to the arguments made by Minnesota EV advocates, including the Walz administration’s Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, who incorrectly argue that the environmental benefits of EVs will accrue to low-income, minority communities. In fact, the Walz administration used this exact line of logic to justify its controversial California car mandates and other policies supporting EV sales.

Self-righteous lawmakers and so-called “clean energy” advocacy groups act like they are saving the planet and low-income communities from air pollution by pushing their policy preferences on the state, but they are simply playing pretend as they ladel taxpayer money into the pockets of their wealthy, eco-conscious constituents for EV subsidies and forcing non-EV drivers to pay higher electric bills to build EV charging stations.

Ultimately, these policies cause low-income communities to have higher levels of air pollution and higher electric bills while wealthy liberals pat themselves on the back for caring so much about “environmental justice.” The hypocrisy is palpable.