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Letter: The realities of a discriminatory electric vehicle mandate in Minnesota

Whalen writes, "Minnesota’s soybean sector is a booming industry that needs to be supported. Once the EV mandate comes into effect, it will diminish the need for the soybean-based biodiesel industry."

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As of this past summer, Minnesota is now officially the first Midwestern state to adopt California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Program, a mandate spearheaded by Gov. Tim Walz. The intended goal of this program is to increase the sale and consumption of electric vehicles in Minnesota to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This government-directed mandate will put a requirement on the amount of electric vehicles bought and sold on Minnesota car lots. Unfortunately, a little known consequence of this mandate will be the discrimination, and ultimately, elimination of ethanol and biofuel-based vehicles in Minnesota. The effects will be economically disastrous for our state’s soybean and corn farmers.

First, there are financial and practical challenges with the new electric vehicle mandate. Some officials in Minnesota, including Walz, are claiming electric vehicles will save consumers money. Unfortunately, the opposite will happen. EVs are estimated to cost up to $16,000 more compared to the typical internal combustion engine-powered vehicle. However, it isn’t just the vehicles themselves that will cost more. With the influx of electric vehicles comes the increased need for electricity infrastructure. To generate the electricity needed to charge all of these new cars, countless charging stations will have to be built and placed throughout the state. Minnesota’s leadership is claiming consumers won’t have to pay for this infrastructure, but that is not the case. The costs associated with new EV infrastructure will inevitably hit consumers, as taxpayer money will be needed for new charging stations.

Closer to home for me personally, Minnesota’s farming community will be adversely affected by the new mandate. Minnesota is a leader in both soybean and corn farming. In order to keep our farms running, we need ample access to vehicles that can carry our crops from point A to point B, under any condition. If Minnesotans now have to increase the use of electric vehicles, our crop production could end up decreasing. To maintain productivity, we won’t have time to stop and charge a vehicle instead of quickly fueling up as usual. While this might work for the people of California, who do not rely on farming like we do, it will not work in a state like Minnesota.

The electric grid that will power these new electric vehicles is not as clean as you would think. The Atlantic Council’s Dr. Ellen Wald pointed out that “according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Hourly Electric Grid Monitor , electricity generation in Minnesota can actually result in significant air pollution. Take one recent day for example: Feb. 21, 2021. On that day, 50% of all Minnesota electricity needs were met by burning coal. A Minnesota resident might thus be powering her electric vehicle largely on coal, a much dirtier fuel than gasoline.” Having to revert to using coal for recharging batteries is directly counterproductive to the point of switching to electric vehicles in the first place. 

Fortunately for Minnesotans, we have a natural resource at our disposal that can help meet energy, electricity, and fuel demands. That resource is soybeans. Soybeans are one of the main crops in Minnesota, and can be harvested to produce biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel is proven to be an environmentally favorable form of fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that biodiesel is the only biofuel that has the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50%. A large portion of the biodiesel used in Minnesota is grown from Minnesota’s own soybeans, and the biodiesel plants in the state produce around 85 million gallons of biodiesel every year.

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Minnesota’s soybean sector is a booming industry that needs to be supported. Once the EV mandate comes into effect, it will diminish the need for the soybean-based biodiesel industry. To make matters worse, leading government officials in our state are pushing for the electric vehicle mandate, although some of their past stances on biofuels are contradicting their current actions.

The governor claims that he is supportive of our ethanol and biofuel industry. He even went so far as to write a recent letter to President Biden on behalf of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition expressing his support. In the letter, Walz asks Biden to make “biofuels a key component of addressing transportation sector emissions,” further stating they are necessary for a transition into carbon-neutral vehicles, as well as provide economic benefits across America. Why then, is he pushing this electric vehicle mandate that would undercut the deployment of biofuels and ethanol for transportation? With his advocacy for a transition to 100% electric vehicles to be sold by Minnesota’s auto dealers, our state’s biofuel industry will ultimately be eliminated. A countless number of jobs will be lost and the revenue that it brings in will drastically decrease.

Walz needs to be more in touch with the realities and needs of our state and agricultural community before inflicting further harm on Minnesota’s soybean growers.

Deb Whalen is the past president of Minnesota Agri-Women.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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