In his State of the State address in April, Gov. Tim Walz explained that Minnesota is blessed with incredible natural resources, both with our people and our land. He also said there are “free market solutions” that can move us toward a sustainable future to protect the environment we depend on and our children can one day rely on as well. I care deeply about advancing climate solutions and protecting the environment. But there’s more than one way to make environmental achievements and Minnesota should follow its own path, one that makes sense for our people and our own unique economy.
Unfortunately, Walz is championing a significant and non-free market policy in the name of environmental protection. The governor’s electric vehicle mandate is at its core consumer coercion. By forcing California’s electric vehicle policies onto Minnesota, we could jeopardize vital sectors that support the livelihoods of thousands of Minnesotans.
A number of Minnesota leaders have pushed back on the mandate. On May 2, the Minnesota Senate approved the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act in its omnibus bill, a policy stopping the state from restricting the sale of vehicles and other equipment based on their fuel source and which would prohibit any requirement for auto dealers to have a certain amount of those vehicles in their inventory. I was proud to testify in support of this bill at a hearing in March to express my own concerns about a vehicle mandate and criticize the way this mandate was forced upon Minnesotans.
Walz’s electric vehicle mandate wasn’t passed by elected leaders like most new rules. Instead, it was adopted through the administrative rule-making process by regulators. In other words, the people deciding the future of our state’s vehicle market weren’t elected by us, but appointed by the governor. We, the voters, essentially had no voice. Not even the people we elect to represent us, the members of the House and Senate, had a say. That’s why they drafted the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act to stop the electric vehicle mandate before it could become law.
As Sen. Andrew Mathews correctly explained, “We should not be ruled by mandates and rule-making. We should be ruled by the rule of law, by our elected legislative bodies and being the voices of the people in our districts that have sent us here to enact statutes.”
Unfortunately, during the proceedings Sen. Nick Frentz tried to remove the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act from the omnibus bill, claiming it would prohibit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from regulating tailpipe emissions. That misrepresentation by Frentz is disappointing. The policy protects consumers from mandates versus restricting a regulatory body that, candidly, isn’t suited to oversee these new rules on EVs given their charge is tailpipes, a part electric vehicles don’t even have.
The reality is that Minnesota and California are two vastly different states with different economies, different air quality and different consumer preferences for vehicles. We shouldn’t tie ourselves to California’s standards, especially given our robust agriculture industry that relies on liquid fuels. One of Minnesota’s main sources of revenue is farming, specifically the corn and soybeans used in part to produce ethanol and biodiesel.
Minnesota is the fourth-largest ethanol producer in the U.S. with over 1.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced annually from 14 ethanol plants. The state also has three biodiesel plants and was home to the country’s first biodiesel mandate. Unlike the electric vehicle mandate pushed by Walz, the biodiesel mandate that also aims to help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels actually went through the proper lawmaking process back in 2002 when it was passed by the Legislature and codified as Minnesota Statute 239.77.
Now, this industry is a serious economic driver, supporting nearly 19,000 full-time jobs in the state and creating $1.5 billion worth of income for Minnesota households. Overall, biofuels contribute $203 million to state and local government tax rolls. Today, this industry simply can’t run on electric vehicles. That’s why the Agricultural Retailers Association estimates there would be a $27 million decrease in U.S. net farm income by 2050 if there were a ban on internal combustion-powered vehicles. Mandates like the one Walz has pushed could set us down a dangerous path toward a ban on gas-powered equipment. That might be great for Californians, but it would cripple Minnesota farmers.
We all want to do our part to protect Minnesota’s environment, but tying our future to California by mandating electric vehicles is silly and dangerous. It’s time to abandon this bad idea and protect Minnesotans through policies like the Consumer Choice of Fuel Act. Let’s start leaning on those “free market solutions” the governor alluded to and think more practically about ways to help the environment without threatening farmers and the Minnesota economy.
Eric Zurn of Callaway is the vice president of Becker/Mahnomen Soybean and Corn Growers.