Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate: 15 years of failure
Tuesday, Nov. 23 marks the 15th anniversary of the day then-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed off on his renewable energy mandate, the Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA). Today is also…
Today, I’ll be testifying in the Minnesota State Senate on Senate File 450, which would effectively prohibit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from imposing California car mandates in Minnesota.
You can watch the hearing and my testimony at the link below or read the text under the link.
Madam Chair and Members of the Committee
My name is Isaac Orr, and I am a policy fellow specializing in energy and environmental policy at Center of the American Experiment.
I believe this legislation provides important benefits to Minnesotans because it would protect them from regulations crafted by unelected bureaucrats who may use cherry-picked assumptions to justify the costs of onerous new regulations.
In my opinion, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is already partaking in this practice to impose California car regulations mandating low emission vehicle and zero-emission vehicle sales in Minnesota.
If enacted, these rules would increase the cost of vehicles, reduce consumer choices, and have no measurable impact on the environment.
Costs for Consumers
MPCA claims the California car regulations will increase the cost of the average vehicle by approximately $1,140, but they argue consumers “would essentially break-even due to fuel savings,” resulting from the regulations.
However, MPCA’s fuel cost analyses are based on U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that are now two years old.
Newer forecasts were available in January of last year, but I suspect they were not used because they show gas prices are likely to remain 50 cents a gallon lower than in the forecast used by MPCA, reducing the likelihood that consumers would “essentially break even.”
Perhaps Governor Walz is planning one heck of a gas tax, but as of right now, MPCA should use the most recent forecasts.
Reducing Consumer Choice
MPCA claims these rules are about increasing consumer choices, but survey data from CleanTechnica.com suggests there is virtually no demand for the EV models that are not currently offered in Minnesota, undermining this argument by the Walz administration.
The market for electric vehicles dominated by Tesla and no other automaker is even close. Vehicle registration data show Minnesotans already have access to the most popular EVs, and only 5 percent of CleanTechnica survey respondents said they wanted a Kia Nero EV, which is one of the models MPCA is using as an example of “large demand” for EVs not currently offered in Minnesota.
Rather than letting markets sort themselves out, the MPCA’s electric car mandates would force auto manufacturers to supply 14,000 EVs every year. This is 1,100 more EVs than have been sold in Minnesota over the last 10 years.
Minnesotans are already free to prioritize fuel economy or fuel type, but many prioritize vehicle size, safety, and range. MPCA should not limit the rights of Minnesotans to choose the vehicle that suits them best.
Zero Measurable Environmental Benefits
MPCA claims these rules will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.4 million tons per year by 2034, but the agency conveniently leaves out the large, up-front emissions from building electric vehicles, which are much larger than those of gas or diesel vehicles.
While it is true that EVs generally produce fewer emissions over the course of their lifetimes, this oversight is emblematic of an agency that feels emboldened to cut corners to justify imposing more costs and restricting access to the vehicles that Minnesotans actually want to buy.
Even if we take MPCA’s flawed assumptions at face value, we can use the same logic used by the Obama administration in crafting the Clean Power Plan to estimate that the proposed regulations would avert 0.000036 degrees C of future global warming by 2100, an amount far too small to measure.
Minnesotans deserve to know the temperature impact of these regulations so they can decide for themselves whether the costs outweigh the benefits.
EPA air monitoring data also show that air quality was worse during the COVID shutdown of March through June 2020 than the previous five-year average, even though traffic was down 40 percent.
This natural experiment greatly undermines the MPCA’s claim that the regulations would deliver air-quality benefits or protect human health.
Conflicting Answers on the Most Important Questions
One problem with rule-by-regulator is that Minnesotans do not know what adopting these rules means for the future.
MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop has said that these rules will not bind Minnesota to future changes to the California car mandates, such as Governor Gavin Newsom’s directive to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035.
These rules would be promulgated by the California Air Resources Board, the same agency that crafted the LEV and ZEV mandates.
However, MPCA’s Statement of Need and Reasonableness states: “The proposed Clean Cars Minnesota rule incorporates the California regulations by reference, as amended, to ensure the standards are identical to California’s and therefore are compliant with the Clean Air Act.”
Minnesotans want to know, will these regulations cede our sovereignty to the whims of California bureaucrats in the future?
This legislation provides Minnesotans with important protections against the advances of the administrative state. If we care about democracy, then rules of this nature are best suited for broad public discussion, not the opaque proceedings of the MPCA.