Currently, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is adopting clean-car standards that would allow Minnesotans additional choices for low-emission and zero-emission vehicles.
Unfortunately, Isaac Orr of the conservative Center of the American Experiment once again is straining to hold back the electric vehicle. In his March 13 column in the News Tribune, “Walz can pump the brakes, too, on electric vehicles,” Orr repeated a claim that electric vehicles are too expensive, have a poor range, and are a poor fit for rural Minnesotans.
In fact, electric vehicles are a great fit for rural Minnesotans, and rural legislators should be doing everything they can to encourage their widespread adoption.
I should know. Last year, I became the owner of a 2016 Nissan Leaf after a series of unfortunate events beginning with a large doe that sauntered across my rural highway with regrettable timing. As I went car shopping, I couldn’t help but realize that gently used electric vehicles were really cheap. Few want to purchase a new electric vehicle because the range is improving rapidly and so leasing is the norm. As a result, my Leaf cost $8,000 less than I paid for my Toyota Prius 13 years previously.
The next thing I noticed is just how quiet, comfortable, and fast the electric vehicle is. Heated seats and steering wheel plus cabin heating with an air-source heat pump provides fast and efficient heating. I’m almost sorry to have left my internal-combustion car behind if only for the character-building frigidity of a cabin that would finally allow my blood to thaw about three blocks from work. With two winters down, my Leaf has always gotten me home.
Best of all, however, is that by simply plugging my car into the house, I have slashed my fuel costs by a whopping two-thirds. It will be even better when I hook up to my utility’s electric-vehicle charging plan, and better yet when I put up my own solar. If a rural family had two electric vehicles and charged them with their own solar array, that family would save thousands per year in fuel costs.
Rural legislators know how hard it is to raise living standards in rural Minnesota. The electric vehicle and home solar is a powerful combination to raise disposable income through fuel-cost savings. And yet, many rural legislators seem to be dead set against saving their constituents money. Why?
Let’s face it, opposition to the MPCA’s Clean Car Minnesota rule is a desperate rear-guard action by car dealers upset that mechanically simple electric vehicles will no longer need their service departments, an alarmed oil and gas industry, and, of course, the conservative think tank industry that serves to whip up discontent over any transition to a cleaner environment when its donor class’ interests are threatened.
Right now, those powerful interests are exerting their muscles at the Minnesota Legislature through a provision in the state Senate omnibus bill that would take away the ability of the MPCA to clean the air and save consumers money through vehicle electrification. If we don’t raise this issue with our legislators, the MPCA will lose the opportunity to give Minnesotans a local choice of electric vehicle. I had to drive to Minneapolis just to take a test drive, for instance.
Please let your state senator and representative know you support clean-car standards. District 3 Sen. Tom Bakk can be reached at 651-296-8881, 3A Rep. Rob Ecklund at 651-296-2190, 3B Rep. Mary Murphy at 800-890-5428, District 7 Sen. Jen McEwen at 651-296-4188, 7A Rep. Jennifer Shultz at 651-296-2228, and 7B Rep. Liz Olson at 651-296-4246.
Dr. Eric Enberg practices family medicine in West Duluth and is group leader for the Duluth Citizens' Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org). He also is a member of the Duluth Climate and Environment Network.