The New Rule Will Not Reduce the Dirty Air We Inherit from Other States
The goal as stated in the new rule is “Improving air quality and reducing the adverse effects of climate change.”
As to air quality in Maine, according to the American Lung Association, “Bangor is one of only 10 cities in the nation that ranked cleanest for ozone, short and long term particle pollution.”
The city of Portland, however, was recently identified as “the 100th most polluted city for ozone pollution.” There are twice as many EVs per capita in the Portland area. In fact, 40% of all of the EVs registered in Maine are in Cumberland County. If replacing gas-powered vehicles with EVs cleans the air, why is Portland’s air so much dirtier?
Mainers don’t need to be told that Portland is much closer to our neighbors to the south than Bangor. Or, that the air south and west of us in the industrial centers of the northeastern U.S. are upwind from them. This is obvious to anyone who follows the prevailing weather patterns on nearly any nightly news weather forecast.
According to the NRCM website Maine is “The Tailpipe of the Nation,” because “Upwind air pollution from Northeastern cities and Midwestern coal plants blows here…Our air quality depends on strong federal pollution regulations on plants from away.” Plants? What happened to gas-powered vehicles as the problem?
In 2018, NRCM advocated for agreements that reduce air pollution in neighboring states arguing that “Maine is sometimes called a ‘tailpipe’ state because our air quality is affected by states upwind of us, as well as by our own sources of pollution.”
Mainers Cannot Stop Climate Change — They Are Not the Cause
As for “reducing the adverse effects of climate change,” this is not something Mainers can do, because the state contributes almost nothing to the greenhouse gases at the root of the problem. Totaling every source of CO2 emissions in the state and measuring them in the standard unit, million metric tons (mmt), Maine emits just 14.4 mmt of CO2 annually.
According to a study cited on Governor Mills’ official website, Maine’s forests scrub 75% of this CO2 from the atmosphere leaving our total carbon footprint at just 3.6 mmt. Since worldwide CO2 emissions total 36,000 mmt (3.6 Gt), Maine’s contribution is about 1 in 10,000.
Since transportation accounts for just half of those emissions, the number drops to a net of 1.73 mmt. When one considers that automobiles, the only vehicles governed by the new rule, make up less than a third of all registered vehicles on Maine roads, the new rule cannot reduce Maine’s CO2 emissions by more than about .5 mmt because that is all there is to reduce.
Anyone who believes or argues that reducing our CO2 emissions by .55 mmt (1/30,000 of the world total) will slow the rise of the oceans, reduce the average temperature, and suddenly clean our air is completely out of touch with the issue.
If Mainers reverted to the Stone Age, cutting all use of electricity, oil, gas, and other sources of CO2, the climate would not notice. Why, then, are we punishing Mainers for something they did not cause and cannot fix?
The Rule Will Not Reduce Emissions from Out-of-State Vehicles
According to a Maine Office of Tourism report, Maine hosted 15.4 million total visitors in 2021. Each of these visitors stayed for an average of 4.6 days. Nearly all of these either drove cars into Maine (85%) or arrived via a carbon-emitting aircraft into Portland (5%) or Bangor, and then rented an automobile and drove it around inside our state.
Since each group that visits Maine is made up of roughly three people, there are more than five million automobiles on Maine roads each year that are not owned by Mainers and not subject to the new rule. This is the equivalent of 63,000 year-round automobiles or 15% of the Maine-owned cars on the road today.
There is No Such Thing as a “Zero Emission Vehicle”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Studies have shown that manufacturing a typical EV can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car [as much as 16 tons per vehicle.] This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery.”
No one knows for certain how much CO2 is emitted in the creation of an EV because of the many variables involved. Just one example: It is 1,000 miles from the copper and cobalt mines of the Congo in Africa by a combination of rail and boat to the Angolan port city of Soyo. It is then another 10,000 seaward miles from the Congo to Hong Kong, and some greater distance from there to the nearest battery manufacturing facility in China. All of this transporting adds to the CO2 cost of every EV.
Each EV that arrives on a dealer’s lot in Maine has already caused the emission of thousands of pounds of CO2 before a customer lays eyes on it.
In Maine “Electric Vehicle” Means Natural Gas Powered
Maine produces only about 70% of the electricity it needs so suppliers must purchase kilowatts from some other source. Nearly all of the electricity consumed in Maine is provided by a collective of the New England states called ISO New England.
In 2022, more than half of the total electricity provided by this group came from fossil fuels. Natural gas alone accounted for 55% of the electricity consumed in Maine. Nuclear power provided another 21%. Renewables (wood, wind, solar) made up just 5% of our grid.
Maine is No California
California’s population is 28 times that of Maine. The state has 34.5 times as many registered automobiles. It also has 4.6 times the land mass and 7.5 times as many registered autos per square mile.
California’s net annual CO2 emissions from automobiles is 139 times that of Maine. When this rule is finalized later this year, a board of Californians who set policy based on the realities in that state will govern the choices of Maine people. This is despite the fact that Mainers emitted just .4% of the CO2 that Californians did.
In fact, from 2021 to 2022, California’s annual CO2 emissions from automobiles alone increased by 9 mmt (from 67.5 to 76.71 mmt). This means that just their increase over one year was more than 16 times Maine’s total annual emissions for that year.