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October 30, 2023 Other Voices

Take it from the economists — CT’s electric vehicle policy is common sense

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Connecticut’s proposed adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) standard has spawned a large amount of debate.

Gary Yohe
Roger Kuhns

As academic economists and scientists, it’s our responsibility to fact-check and bring clarity to the conversation, so policymakers can make informed decisions that affect the future of our lives, economy and planet.

First, it’s important to note that ACCII does not take away anybody’s car. It establishes a gradual, ramping transition period that requires automakers to sell an incrementally higher percentage of zero-emission vehicles each year.

Its regulations apply only to the sale of new cars by their original manufacturers; it does not apply directly to dealers, distributors or buyers.

Gas cars will not disappear from lots — they will remain on the primary market through 2035, and on the secondary market for decades after that.

Connecticut is not acting alone. We are joining Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Virginia as formal adopters of ACCII, even as Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia are working through their own adoption processes.

ACCII is designed to meet the market where it’s headed, and automakers are already on board — at least 10 different automakers have committed to totally phasing out gas cars, with GM, Volkswagen, Volvo and Mercedes promising a full transition between 2030 and 2035.

Meeting the infrastructure needs of EVs is a challenge in the short run, but the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already funding necessary infrastructure investment.

More than $7.5 billion has been made available for charging-station build out, adding thousands of new sites across the country. Meanwhile, adopting ACCII will boost investor confidence and spur further capitalization and innovation in EV charging technology, grid infrastructure and renewable energy.

While producing EV batteries does have an environmental impact, rapid progress is being made on building batteries with fewer minerals and more easily recyclable elements.

Fortunately, today’s batteries already have a smaller lifetime carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for emissions from manufacturing and charging on a mixed-source grid.

Historically, our dependence on oil imports has forced us to compromise with immoral autocrats to secure fuel, causing market volatility that hurts Connecticut residents and businesses at the gas pump.

In order to protect national security and lower the cost of living, we need to continue to invest in energy sources that are domestically and renewably produced, and the technologies that use them the most efficiently — such as EVs.

As economists, we’ve been closely following the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the “big three” domestic automakers, and the role that EVs play in the American labor market.

Some have claimed that EVs will cause job losses because they require less labor to manufacture — however, the latest research shows this isn’t true.

The number of worker hours needed to build an EV powertrain ranges from slightly greater than, to nearly double, those required to build a gas car powertrain.

Automakers are making big investments in the domestic supply chain, and the UAW has recently seen major successes in ensuring representation for battery workers — together, ensuring thousands of safe, well-paid manufacturing jobs across the United States.

Climate considerations

Connecticut is not immune to the impacts of climate change. We’ve seen extreme flooding in Vermont and wildfires in Hawaii.

Closer to home, the news is not any better.

There have been long droughts, more frequent heat waves, and extreme coastal and inland storms. The flooding residents in New Britain endure with unsettling regularity is caused by storm runoff into drainage pipes that are 75-plus years old, overwhelmed by our rapidly deteriorating climate.

Taking steps to reduce our carbon impact today is the economical choice — saving us from spiraling social and economic costs associated with mitigating the intensifying harms of climate change.

The transportation sector produces the largest share of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions — but adopting the strongest possible standards for zero-emission vehicles isn’t just about doing our fair share to fight climate change.

When it comes to regulatory policy, we need to listen to what the economic evidence tells us.

The ACCII rule will make Connecticut a healthier, more efficient state, with better jobs, more resilience to oil price volatility, and cutting-edge parity with the most advanced markets across the country and the entire world.

By finalizing and adopting the rule by the end of the year, we’ll be one step closer to a brighter future in Connecticut.

Gary Yohe is the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus, at Wesleyan University. Roger Kuhns is an economic geologist who has taught at City College of New York and University of Wisconsin Field Station. Both are Connecticut residents.

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