Only eight U.S. states can boast that all-electric vehicles exceed 1 percent of all vehicles registered there.
None are greater than 2.5 percent.
Yet the Natural Resource Council of Maine (NRCM) wants to force our state to require that 52 percent of all new cars sold here are “zero emission vehicles” (ZEVSs) in just the next three years.
“Zero emissions” is, of course, a misnomer, considering most of the power that charges the vehicles will come from power companies that burn natural gas. As others have noted, it would be more accurate to call them “External Combustion Vehicles” (ECVs).
By getting just 150 signatures on a petition, they have set the wheels in motion to accomplish this simply by amending a routine rule imposed by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). No vote by the Legislature will occur, no statewide referendum, and that 52 percent of new cars sold will grow to 82 percent just eight years from now. Currently, Maine is in the bottom ten states in the adoption of ECVs.
Last Thursday, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection held a public hearing to allow Maine citizens to weigh in on this rule change. The response was overwhelmingly against the proposal, but this will not matter. Rest assured, the hearing was as much a formality as it was a charade, and we will soon hear that the rule change has been adopted.
NRCM has made two major points in support of its proposal. They say the reason less than one half of one percent of all cars on Maine roads today are ECVs is because they are not available for purchase in our state. Everyone wants one but they can’t find them, the NRCM claims. This statement is immediately proven false by a quick search of the Internet. This reveals that an inquiry of ECVs limited to 2023 & 2024 models and within 100 miles of Portland showed nearly 1,000 available on Cargurus.com. Another 787 appeared with the same filters on Autotrader.com. The site ISeeCars.com had 274. Dozens more are currently on the lots and ready for purchase at each of Maine’s major auto dealers. Many are 2023 models, sitting unsold on lots long after the 2024s have arrived.
NRCM claims, with no scientific proof or empirical data to back it up, that by forcing auto manufacturers to sell drastically fewer gas-powered vehicles (GPVs), they can force them to send more of their ECVs to Maine for sale. They offer no empirical data to support this notion, no research study that proves their point. Automakers, they say, are just discriminating against Mainers by withholding the cars they want for reasons that NRCM cannot or will not tell us.
Let’s be honest. The issue here is that NRCM does not like that you have the freedom to drive a gasoline-powered automobile, so they are going to take that from you, and it only took them 150 signatures on a petition to do it. They believe, with religious certainty, that doing this will help stop climate change, regardless of how the developing world continues to burn fossil fuels in the coming decades.
While claiming, for example, that Maine has plenty of electricity to support a massive influx of electric cars, NRCM’s website on the issue contradicts itself. First, it says that the two most expensive forms of electrical generation are going to save us. “Maine is rapidly building out new sources of responsibly sourced clean energy, especially wind and solar.” Solar is directly responsible for drastic and repeated hikes in the electric rates that Mainers are paying, and offshore wind energy is currently experiencing a disaster in Europe, the region that wind proponents frequently hold up as a model for the world.
It then dismisses these concerns by saying, “We are also pushing electric utilities and the state’s Public Utilities to proactively plan for the grid of the future that is more responsive and better prepared.” By requiring a “grid of the future” they admit that the grid of the present is inadequate. The multi-billion-dollar upgrade to remedy this will be borne by ratepayers.
NRCM wants us to believe that somehow, in just three years, more than 26,000 Mainers will suddenly decide a ECV is for them, even though only 5,000 of them have one on the road in Maine now, 27 years after the first mass-produced ECV hit the market. After it took nearly three decades to reach 5,000 ECVs, there is not the slightest chance we can reach 26,000 new ECVs per year in just three years, and then 42,000 by 2030 when the 82 percent standard kicks in. The proposed standard is ludicrous and will almost certainly result in wild dysfunction in Maine’s auto market.
What the new rule will do is limit the sale of traditional vehicles thereby dramatically raising the already outrageous market prices for the fewer and fewer new gas-powered cars and trucks available to Maine buyers. The evidence for this?—it already happened!
Just this Monday, the Press Herald ran a story pointing out that only 8 percent of used vehicles for sale in Maine today are priced under $20,000. This has occurred because of a huge drop in the availability of new cars caused by a shortage of microchips. This reality is likely to worsen when these rules take effect, reducing the availability of affordable new cars and trucks further—and permanently.
What if Mainers go crazy and exceed all expectations by buying 10,000 ECVs in model year 2027? That would mean only 10,000 new GPVs could be sold, down from 26,000 last year. This is a simple question of supply and demand. With 26,000 new car buyers competing for just 10,000 cars of their choice, the price of GPVs will jump yet again. This, of course, is what NRCM is hoping for—forcing you to act as they want.
Here are some facts that should be a central part of this discussion.
First, there is no such thing as a “zero emission” vehicle in Maine. We do not, as a state, produce enough electricity to meet our needs, so we buy our power from a collective of all the New England states called ISO-New England. Currently, 45 percent of the electricity this system provides comes from natural gas—a fossil fuel. Another 26 percent comes from nuclear power, something to which NRCM is wildly opposed. Only 6 percent of the electricity distributed in New England comes from wind and solar. In peak periods when demand spikes, as on cold winter days or at night, when most people would be charging their cars, the reliance on fossil fuels grows.
Mainers are already struggling under the weight of higher and higher electric rates caused by NRCM’s favored “net-energy billing”, a policy that forces electric companies to buy overpriced solar electricity generated by out-of-state and even foreign companies who are making millions off of this boondoggle. NRCM promised us this would not happen. It did. Now, Mainers of lesser means will also be forced to overpay to own a used vehicle of lower quality just to be able to get to work or the grocery store.
On its website, NRCM claims that it is important to act now because, “Climate change is already impacting Maine. Just this summer, wildfire smoke, flooding, and record temperatures are all evidence that climate change is here now and cannot be ignored.” Again, they provided no evidence for this claim, but even if the links to these outcomes could be made scientifically, Mainers had almost nothing to do with it.
By the way, NRCM, about those “record temperatures,” the average July temperature in Portland in 2023 was 70.4 degrees, 2 degrees cooler than last year, .4 degrees cooler than five years ago, and 3/4 of a degree cooler than 10 years ago.
According to the federal government, the Pine Tree State is among the nation’s lowest when it comes to CO2 emissions at just 14.4 million metric tons (mmt). According to researchers at the University of Maine, nearly three-quarters of this CO2 is sequestered by Maine’s abundant forests each year. This leaves Maine’s net CO2 emissions at about 3.6 mmt. Transportation accounts for one half of that total.
If Maine could eliminate every gas-powered vehicle from its roads tomorrow, it would reduce the world’s CO2 emissions by just 1.8 mmt per year. Just for perspective, NRCM’s beloved California emits the equivalent of that almost every day. The world emits this much every half hour.
NRCM would have you believe that by reducing the equivalent of thirty minutes of CO2 the oceans would cool, the glaciers would grow, and the climate would finally ease. They know, as well as everyone who has given this any serious thought, that Maine cannot fix the world’s climate problems because it does not contribute to them in any meaningful way.
Why, then, continue to punish Mainers, especially the poorest among us, for something we have no control over? We did not cause it. We cannot fix it. Why must we pay?
As with any other issue-oriented non-profit group in Augusta, the primary goal of the NRCM is not helping the environment. It is keeping the lights on and the paychecks coming. For this, they need to please their donors and convince them that continued donations to their group will accomplish something they find important. If there is no controversy or crisis to fill the lead story of their latest newsletter, donors will not reach for their checkbooks.
Let’s say the NRCM told its members the truth. It would read like this:
“Dearest members and generous supporters, Maine has virtually no impact on climate change. Our 3.6 mmt of annual net carbon emissions are a tiny fraction of the world’s output. About 1/10,222nd to be exact. Only half of those emission are the result of transportation, so the reduction that would result from eliminating all gas-powered vehicles from our roads—every UPS and FedEx truck, local plumber and electrician’s pickup, WalMart warehouse delivery truck, etc.— is less than 1.5 mmt. Even if we eliminated these completely and brought commerce in our state to a complete halt, it would have no impact on the climate whatsoever. Mainers would suffer unnecessarily.”
That would be the honest thing to say, and it is backed by loads of empirical data to prove it. But being honest with their members and the public, basing their actions on real, provable data, would not motivate their misinformed donor base. So, there is a very high likelihood that, in just three years, an enormous disaster will befall Maine’s already fragile economy, all because just 150 people signed a petition introduced by a non-profit group that is fully aware their claims have no basis in fact but are just pie in the sky notions meant to appease their funding sources.
And for this, the rest of the people of Maine will soon suffer, indefinitely.