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Adoption of Clean Cars Minnesota rules is a reasonable next step

The real impact of adoption of the new rules will be to create a bridge toward lower-polluting vehicular transportation.

Last September, Gov. Tim Walz announced his administration intended to adopt California’s standards for low-emission vehicles and zero-emission vehicles.
REUTERS/William DeShazer
Later this month an administrative law judge will rule whether the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [MCPA] has the authority to change Minnesota’s vehicle pollution control framework from the federal standards to the “California” standards.

This question has generated more than a little passion and public discussion — well documented in MinnPost. Everyone is tempted to highlight the benefits of their position and the costs of others’ positions.

Minnesota and the nation are inexorably moving toward increased use of electric vehicles as one facet of blunting climate change and weirding.

A bridge to less pollution

The real impact of adoption of the Clean Cars Minnesota rules will be to create a bridge toward lower-polluting vehicular transportation, with two short term effects:

1) Internal combustion vehicles sold here will continue to meet 2016 federal standards rather than the contested “SAFE” standards proposed by the prior federal administration. This does not involve new technology.

2) A credit system will give manufacturers incentive to begin offering battery electric vehicles [BEV] and plug-in hybrids [PIH] earlier than mandated, smoothing the transition toward EVs.

Yes, this rule set will force a change in the mix of vehicles sold in Minnesota, but it will not force any purchaser into a specific choice.

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Moving the vehicle mix toward a less polluting fleet is more powerful than controlling any specific purchase.

Minnesota may revert to federal standards when and if we see an advantage. It is likely that the Clean Cars Minnesota rules will be a transitional rule set.

Bruce Parker
Bruce Parker
Opposition to Clean Cars Minnesota rules has several facets:Range and capacity limits: Will some users be inconvenienced or prevented from some necessary function?

Nothing in this rule set prevents a standard [if more efficient] internal combustion motor when an EV is not practical.

Plug-in hybrids can operate as EVs for a substantial part of their service cycle, yet have unlimited range on gasoline or diesel.

Please note our current and ongoing exclusion of farm and construction equipment from current regulations.

Change is unsettling. But so would be catastrophic climate change.

At least in the short term, it is likely that a majority of BEVs will be sold in urban areas for short trip use. This can change with wider public charging access.

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How will we manage public charging access to meet BEV drivers’ needs? How will we ask BEV owners to contribute to road maintenance, in lieu of fuel tax?

These are real but solvable problems. Let’s get to work.

Bruce Parker, M.D., is a career emergency physician with interests in climate preservation, injury prevention, equitable health care access, and rural emergency medicine. He lives in Minneapolis.

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