From; Ethan Lang, Executive Director
In May, the Division of Air Quality of DNREC conducted statewide hearings to discuss its ban on new internal combustion vehicles by 2035. That discussion became rather heated in town halls across the state, with citizens on both sides expressing strong views.
But despite what has been said about this issue, the electric vehicle (EV) mandate IS being forced by the effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Most people do not realize that because of this irrational focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Delaware may get an electric vehicle mandate regardless of Secretary Garvin’s decision and on a timescale much faster than in 2035. Let me explain.
Like other states, Delaware can adhere to regulations set forth by the EPA or adopt more stringent standards set forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). States may not develop their own regulations. Generally, northeastern and northwestern states adopt the CARB standards.
While the original proposition of the EV mandate was couched as an ozone-reduction measure, California notes clearly that one of the primary goals was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The press release by CARB noted that:
“Transportation is the single largest source of global warming emissions and air pollution in the state … In 2040, greenhouse gas emissions from cars, pickups, and SUVs are cut in half, and from 2026 through 2040 the regulation cuts climate-warming pollution from those vehicles a cumulative total of 395 million metric tons. That is equivalent to avoiding the greenhouse gases produced from the combustion of 915 million barrels of petroleum.”
Indeed, Governor Carney’s State of the State Address tied Delaware’s EV focus to climate change – “The effects of climate change and sea level rise on Delaware communities are real. We see them every day. That is why we need to act. With the help of federal infrastructure funding, we will accelerate efforts to build out Delaware’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure.”
Why this is important is that the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act “establishes a statutory requirement of greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the medium and long term to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the State … and requires State agencies to address climate change in decision-making and rulemaking.” This bill was introduced into the State legislature on June 2, 2022, and passed the State Senate by a vote of 13-to-6 (with one abstention and one absentee). It was tabled in the House to allow businesses to evaluate its potential impact. This Act was reintroduced during this session as House Bill 99 and will require the electric vehicle mandate to be implemented. It passed the House on June 6 and now awaits a vote by the Senate.
But surprisingly, the Act states, “the State shall implement greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies to ensure that, no later than January 1, 2030, statewide greenhouse gas emissions on a net basis shall be reduced by not less than 50% from a 2005 baseline” (emphasis added). That is less than seven years from now and requires us to cut emissions by at least half. As CARB1 noted, “transportation is responsible for approximately 50% of greenhouse gas emissions (when accounting for fuel production emissions) … in California.” There is no way such a bill could go into action without addressing the carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector. Thus, the State legislature may enact a more draconian EV mandate even if Secretary Garvin decides against it.
But the possibilities for the enaction of the EV mandate continue beyond here. The New York Times (and other news outlets) reported that the EPA might propose an ambitious, almost innocuous climate regulation like the CARB standard. CARB proposed that 68% of all new car sales would be EVs by 2030; the new EPA rule would require two-thirds by 2032. Remember that Delaware has a choice – the EPA rule or the CARB rule – we cannot make up our own rules. If the EPA goes forward with its rule, the EV mandate is a fait accompli; the only question is how fast it will be implemented.
Note that none of these rules can mandate EV sales. But the Clean Air Act limits the pollution generated by the cars sold by each automobile manufacturer, with substantial fines and penalties levied against companies that fail to comply. These limits are so stringent that automobile manufacturers must sell a certain percentage of EVs to comply with the rule. Thus, while EV sales cannot be mandated directly, forcing automobile manufacturers to comply with pollution levels generated by the new cars they sell dictates the proportion of EVs sold.
So, our solution is not just to petition Secretary Garvin to reject the EV mandate. Many of those in opposition to the mandate have noted that it is being forced on us by non-elected officials, with the tacit assumption that it would be acceptable if elected officials voted for it. But the passage of the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act will require a vote by our elected officials. Thus, concerned citizens must tell all our elected officials – in the Governor’s Office, the State Senate, and the Delaware General Assembly, as well as in Washington DC – how they feel. Otherwise, we will be forced to pay more for electric vehicles, both in initial and operating costs, all while being stripped of choice.