The current occupant of the White House is dumping the EPA’s tightening of auto emission regulations that would have reduced Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) via tightening MPG requirements over the next few years. In response to that gross unscientific stupidity, Minnesota’s Governor Walz proposed adopting the California standards, which are pretty much the same as the standards Trump killed. So it was that last night the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a meeting in my rural corner of the state to explain and get public feedback on the proposal…

The are two California standards proposed, the first is the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard that ratchets up automakers average MPG to a theoretical 50 MPG or so. Theoretical because only some small cars have to meet that standard and the MPG goals drop with size to the point where a big ol’ pickup with a barely 20 MPG rating can waltz right through. That explains why the automakers gave up the fight on this regulation so easily and BMW, Ford, and VW say they’ll meet it whether required to or not. If we had any real climate change fighting courage we’d adopt the tougher EU standards that will require max GHG of 100 grams/kilometer, which is better than 40 MPG for anything smaller than a working truck or minibus. The other standard, the Zero Emissions Vehicle Standard (ZEV), demands that 6% of a car makers output must be electric cars. That explains the phenomenon of “compliance cars” with tiny batteries and inadequate range sold at a loss only in states that follow California’s ZEV standard.

The LEV standard, wimpy as it be, actually has potential to produce double digit reductions in GHG emissions. The ZEV standard is basically PC on wheels, given that it takes 20+ years to turn the nation’s auto fleet over and electric cars have a life of only 10, sometime after 2040 the ZEV standard will push us up to maybe a whole 3% electric cars on the road. Figure in that electric cars displace small high MPG cars anyway, some of the electricity fueling them will come from dirty sources, and some of the conventional cars will be running on renewable biofuels… The ZEV standard will maybe give us a whole one percent reduction of GHGs in a couple decades.

So we’ve got an LEV standard that’s an easy choice, a big reduction in GHGs and drivers fuel costs with almost no downside… I should know ‘cause I’ve been driving VW diesel LEVs for the last four decades. The ZEV standard is barely worth arguing over… It just plain won’t accomplish much.

So comes the meeting and the PCA presenter gets through maybe a half an hour of explaining, only to be interrupted by a luddite who argues the whole regulation was unconstitutional, with a couple of his fellow luddites joining the interruption. Clearly they’d skipped outta Civics 101, the constitutional authority of the government to establish rules for the general welfare of the citizenry being well settled law.

Noting that the luddites weren’t waiting for their time to speak, this cued the ‘lectric car fanatics to take the floor with their own near religious testimonials. Clearly they’d played hooky outa science classes as well as Econ 101, thinking their little Bolt, Leaf, or Tesla was going to save the world by replacing the couple hundred gallons of fuel a year they burn with ‘lectricity half produced with sometimes even dirtier fossil fuel. This cued the dealer’s lobbyist, or at least he claimed to be, who got up and unleashed the standard FUD about higher costs and less choices. Seeing an opening, I countered by chiding him for stupidly opposing a ZEV regulation that will shower them with electric cars that they’ll have a monopoly on repairing and half the life of a conventional small car, and those $40k price tags pack a lot a profit!

The stupid kept coming for the rest of the meeting, with testimonials of the glory of big ass pickups countered by testimonials to the glory of overpriced throw away electric cars that will save the clean air of tiny Morris, Minnesota. The ‘lectric car fanatics even had a conspiracy theory that they couldn’t buy electric cars in Minnesota… lists something like 176 for sale within day trip distance… But these zealots weren’t about to let their not so righteous indignation be scuttled by reality. I tried to interject some bits of science, but neither side would have it- This was an argument between religious zealots, with neither side interested in real solutions.

Heck, why would they drive a 40+ MPG diesel car that rivals an electric for GHG production while doing the work of a big ol’ pickup when they can make a “statement” with said funny looking ‘lectric car or jacked up pickup?