Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is attempting to push through a new electric vehicle mandate, modeled after the state of California, which would limit consumer choice and severely hurt Minnesota’s biodiesel industry and our state’s larger agricultural community.
The proposed rule – which would become effective in 2024 – would require automakers to sell a certain number of costly electric vehicles from their lots every year. As the comment period is currently underway, Minnesota’s farmers, influential lawmakers and other concerned residents should become educated about this dangerous proposal, and take action to change the rule, before it’s too late.
As vice president of the Becker/Mahnomen Soybean and Corn Growers, I have a responsibility to ensure our state’s soybean and corn farmers have a voice before large policy decisions are made unilaterally. Biodiesel – which is made from soybeans – is a clean-burning, locally grown fuel that helps reduce our carbon footprint. Unlike the state of California, Minnesota’s natural resources are abundant with soybeans and corn, creating biodiesel and ethanol, which simultaneously powers the economy while protecting the environment. Minnesotans are already reducing greenhouse gas emissions and can continue to be part of the solution without making drastic changes.
Conversely, California is consistently ranked as one of states with the worst air quality and 148 federally designated air pollution areas. Due to its unique geography, climate and severe air quality issues have been a challenge for years, and further reason to not model Minnesota’s climate goals after The Golden State. According to data from the U.S. Energy Administration, in 2017 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in California was 360 million metric tons (MMT), while Minnesota’s was around 88.5 MMT. Tackling our country’s climate goals should not be a one-size fits all approach and every state has its own unique way of addressing the risks of climate change.
During a time when our country is rebounding from a global pandemic, we should not be pushing a mandate that will increase upfront costs of new vehicles by an average of $13,000 more than traditional internal-combustion engines. Forcing Minnesotans to buy more expensive vehicles that exceed their family’s budget is not an economical or practical solution to tackling climate change, especially when electric vehicles are not free of emissions. Battery operated electric vehicles generate emissions through the electricity they source from power plants for recharging. There are also emissions generated through the manufacturing, installing and maintenance of wind turbines and solar panels. So there are still emissions associated with battery charged vehicles even when they are recharged through renewable energy sources.
In addition, further evidence shows that limiting consumer choice and forcing California’s extreme rules on Minnesota communities would not even result in buying only electric vehicles, thereby negating the Minnesota Control Agency’s proposed goal. In fact, lawmakers have pointed to data suggesting that new vehicles’ demand will drop 7.1% if California Emission Standards are adopted in Minnesota. The drop in demand would be the result of higher transportation costs.
Walz, as an active member of Minnesota’s agricultural community who cares deeply about the state’s environmental goals, should rethink bypassing the Minnesota Legislature in order to hold us to a different state’s unreasonable climate standards. Doing so would also help ensure the costs and associated climate benefits of the proposed policy will be fully transparent to the public in Minnesota.
Our state shouldn’t have to choose between biodiesel, gas, ethanol, or electric vehicles. The hardworking soybean farmers of Minnesota – who are already actively combating climate change on a daily basis while significantly boosting our economy – deserve to be heard on this important issue before jumping on the electric vehicle bandwagon.
Eric Zurn is vice president of Becker/Mahnomen Soybean and Corn Growers.