DC green-lights aggressive electric vehicle mandate despite critics sounding alarm on high consumer costs

The nation’s capital is joining several states led by California in moving forward with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) mandate, which experts and lawmakers have warned will lead to higher consumer costs.

The Washington, D.C., Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) announced late last week that it had formally adopted the so-called Advanced Clean Cars II Rule crafted by California’s state government. Under the regulations, automakers will be required to only sell zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2035 in an effort to curb carbon emissions and fight global warming.

“District residents are already accruing savings in refueling costs from electrification,” the DOEE said in its announcement Friday. “Electric vehicle prices continue to decrease over time and EPA projects that when considering all of the economic incentives available the average electric vehicle will cost $400 to $4,000 less than a gasoline equivalent by 2032.”

“Even greater cost savings occur when the maintenance and fuel savings of approximately $10,000 that the average owner will save over eight years of ownership are considered,” the statement continued.

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The action comes as several Democratic-led states pursue EV mandates, many of which are similarly modeled after California’s regulations.

In March 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reinstated California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to implement its own emission standards, also allowing other states to adopt California’s rules. The Trump administration had revoked the state’s authority to pursue standards that run counter to federal rules.

Months later, on Aug. 25, 2022, the California Air Resources Board, a state environmental agency, announced new regulations banning gas-powered cars, and mandating electric cars, by 2035. In addition, another 17 states have laws in place that tether their vehicle emissions standards to those set in California, meaning the mandate may impact tens of millions of Americans nationwide and a sizable share of future car purchases.

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The House passed a bill in September that would reverse the EPA’s reinstatement of California’s authority to finalize its Advanced Clean Cars II Rule. That legislation, though, has yet to receive a floor vote in the Senate.

“We are pleased to see DC adopt the Advanced Clean Cars II program that will benefit our air quality and public health while increasing access to zero-emission vehicles,” Mike Litt, conservation chair and executive committee member at Sierra Club’s DC Chapter, said on Tuesday.

“DC joins a group of states attacking the scourge of transportation sector pollution,” added Kathy Harris, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The capital city is the latest to adopt the Advanced Clean Car II standards which will have massive air quality, health and economic benefits as the transition to zero emission vehicles moves forward.”

In addition to Washington, D.C., several northeastern states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, are pursuing EV mandates. Michigan and New Mexico are also moving ahead with their own EV requirements.

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Proponents of such regulations have pointed to the transportation sector’s heavy carbon footprint, arguing EVs would help reduce pollution. Overall, transportation accounts for nearly 30% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.

However, critics of aggressive EV requirements have warned that the U.S. power grid is currently unequipped to handle the significantly increased demand and load that would be generated by widespread EV adoption. They have also argued that power outages, triggered by both storms and low supplies, could render large swaths of an electrified transportation sector useless.

“The only way the electrification of the transportation sector and of home heating and cooling can work is if the utility sector continues to build natural-gas-fired plants and looks to building nuclear plants and perhaps building new coal plants because the grid in these states that are pushing these policies is already overloaded,” Myron Ebell, the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, previously told Fox News Digital. 

“As everybody moves to EVs, if it happens, the only way to do it is to find more baseload power and dispatchable power.”

The DOEE didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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