Clean cars in Minnesota: a very good idea!

On Tuesday, February 23rd, state director Tim Schaefer testifed in support of the MPCA's proposed clean cars rules. Those rules will help ensure that there are clean cars for sale everywhere in Minnesota. Fourteen states have already adopted these standards -- we hope Minnesota will be the next, but not the last.

Timothy Schaefer

Judge Palmer-Denig,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I’m Tim Schaefer, state director of Environment Minnesota, a public advocacy organization with over 7,000 members around the state.

I want to make two things very clear:

  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has the clear authority, through the Clean Air Act, to regulate air pollution and should continue to use that authority to aggressively combat climate change and protect Minnesotans’ health. This rule is an important part of that effort.

  • Some of Minnesota’s auto dealers oppose this because they’re stuck in their ways. Auto dealers have a lot of power to decide which models they sell — and right now that means mostly gas guzzling SUVs and light trucks. This rule will make sure that Minnesotans at least have the option to buy something better.

As we all know, climate change is real and it’s a problem we have to solve as quickly as possible. Transportation is now the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota — but you might think differently after visiting your local car dealer. Right now, less than 1% of cars for sale at dealerships are electric. And that’s in the Twin Cities — it’s even worse in Greater Minnesota. That’s compared to about 4% globally.

The market simply isn’t going to fix this quickly enough. If anything, it’s heading in the wrong direction: SUVs and light trucks are forecasted to make up 78 percent of new vehicle sales by 2025. And right now, very few of them are electric or hybrid.

Rules are one way we express our values in a democracy, and if we are serious about fighting climate change, we need rules that reflect that. If we want to transition our economy off of fossil fuels, then at the very least we need to ensure that electric vehicles –including SUVs and other light trucks– are available for sale everywhere. This isn’t a ban on combustion engines or even a mandate that dealers can only sell electric or hybrid cars. This is just the right thing to do. It’s a step in the right direction.

And of course, we know there’s so much more we have to do, even when this rule is finalized. We need charging stations in places where people will actually use them. We need robust investment in mass transit, to give people real alternatives to driving. But our transportation system is built for cars right now and as long as that’s true, people must have the option to buy zero emission vehicles. Without this rule, that may not happen. Please finalize the rule as proposed and give the MPCA the power to do its job. Thank you.


Timothy Schaefer

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