Minnesota Democrats don’t accept California’s gas-powered car ban

States like Washington and Massachusetts plan to join California in largely banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, seeing it as an effective way to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel sector. transport.

In Minnesota, however, prominent Democrats who celebrated an earlier move toward cleaner vehicles aren’t backing the idea — at least not so far. Governor Tim Walz’s administration has not ruled out a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars, although Walz regulators strongly suggest that won’t happen any time soon.

Now, a key DFL lawmaker at the Minnesota House in progressive Minneapolis is also throwing cold water on the idea. State Rep. Jamie Long, who heads the House Finance and Climate and Energy Policy Committee, said the governor is “taking the right approach” by implementing an earlier, less stringent version of the emissions standards. California automobiles for just one year.

“I think Minnesota is going to go its own way,” Long told MinnPost, saying electric vehicles are less common in Minnesota than other states that are rapidly moving to electric vehicles. “I think the likelihood of us tracking California is probably low.”

Minnesota must decide which auto regulations to follow

Last year, Minnesota adopted what it calls Clean Cars Standards. They are identical to California’s auto emissions standards and primarily require automakers to deliver more electric vehicles for sale in the state starting in 2024.

California is the only state that can set its own automotive emissions regulations, but other states can choose to follow California or meet federal standards.

Most Democrats have backed Clean Cars in Minnesota because they argue it will provide more electric vehicle choices, boost a lagging industry and reduce carbon emissions. But Republicans and auto dealers oppose the regulations, saying they are meddling with a free market and forcing expensive electric vehicles on people.

Then, in August, California tightened the rules. Starting with the 2026 model year, the state will allow automakers to sell fewer and fewer cars with internal combustion engines until they are phased out in 2035. (People will still be able to buy new gasoline-powered cars in other states or used in California. Some new gasoline-powered plug-in hybrids will also remain available.)

That means Minnesota’s old program will last for a year, until 2025. At that point, Minnesota will either have to join California in banning new gas-powered cars or revert to less stringent federal regulations.

The decision is currently in the hands of Walz and his Minnesota pollution control agency. The MPCA can act without further legislative approval due to state laws governing pollution regulation, though lawmakers can always change that authority, and their views are likely factored into state decisions on the matter.

On Friday, MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler reiterated that the agency was not beginning a rule-making process to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and was focusing on implementing less aggressive regulations for 2025.

The MPCA previously estimated that electric vehicles would need to account for between 6.2% and 7.4% of new light-duty vehicle sales from Minnesota manufacturers to meet the original clean car standards.

“We haven’t reached the starting point” of the old rules, Kessler said. “It’s premature to try to ask us what you’re going to do in three days when we haven’t decided what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Key House Democrat not calling for car ban

Long, the Minneapolis DFLer, is a leading voice on his party’s climate and energy policy in the state Capitol and is part of his party’s progressive wing on the issue.

He spoke on Friday, wearing a windmill lapel pin, as the governor unveiled a “Climate Action Framework” that details the policy hopes of Democrats, climate nonprofits and of certain companies to reduce carbon emissions across the state.

It calls for 20% of vehicles on Minnesota’s roads to be electric vehicles by 2030 and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from the transportation sector by 2040. It does not include a ban to sell gas-powered cars, even though such a plan would sharply reduce emissions from a transportation sector that accounts for about a quarter of Minnesota’s emissions. Currently, the state is not on track to meet its goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2025, and the transportation sector is partly responsible.

Long said Minnesota’s clean car rules would boost the electric vehicle market in Minnesota and give consumers options already available in other states trying to increase electric vehicle use. After those rules end, Minnesota can reevaluate where it stands, he said.

But Long also said Minnesota was different from California and other states. For example, Long said electric vehicles aren’t as popular here and the state needs a more robust charging system. Minnesota is the only state in the Midwest to adopt the earlier version of automotive emissions standards.

“I think we first have to get to a point where Minnesotans have choices to purchase electric vehicle options and also that we have the infrastructure to support those choices,” Long said. “I think in the next few years, that’s where I want my focus to be, is to provide options for Minnesotans to buy new vehicles.”

Would the reaction of Long, Walz and other Democrats be any different if it weren’t for this upcoming midterm election that will decide who is governor and who controls the Legislative Assembly?

The policy cannot be ignored in this case. The issue has been contentious, with some Democrats, particularly in rural areas, opposing the original Clean Cars standard.

Republicans have lately criticized Democrats for what they say is a lack of a clear “yes” or “no” answer on passing California’s gas-powered car ban. “Right now, gas-powered vehicles are $15,000 less than electric vehicles,” said Rep. Chris Swedzinkski of Ghent, the top Republican on the House Climate and Energy Committee. “This would represent a massive change with costly consequences for Minnesota families, businesses and auto dealerships, and we are not getting a direct response from Governor Walz or his agencies.”

What Democrats hope to do instead

In the absence of a ban on sales of new gas-powered cars, Long said he hoped to pass a bill to provide rebates on electric vehicles, and he said there should be more funding from the state for electric vehicle chargers. But he also said there had been federal investment in pricing and the Cut Inflation Act would pay for an electric vehicle tax credit, among other provisions aimed at stimulating the market. Some automakers have also set their own targets to stop or limit the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles.

By 2025, when the Clean Cars Standard in Minnesota runs its short course, Long said “there will be a lot of movement” from the federal government and automakers to move the industry forward.

Rather than endorsing a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars, the climate framework unveiled by Walz and the MPCA at an Ecolab facility in Eagan calls for more money for a nationwide pedestrian and bike network state, more public transport and a land use policy that “facilitates multimodal transport”. .”

A major policy proposal suggested in the framework to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles is something called a “low carbon fuel standard”, which requires fuels to become less “carbon intensive” over time. . This is expected to pass through a legislature that is currently split between the majority DFL House and the Republican-led Senate.

A version of the policy has been adopted in states like California, Washington and Oregon.

MinnPost is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization whose mission is to provide high-quality journalism to people who care in Minnesota.

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