Christine Palm

In the ongoing battle over whether climate change is a problem we should be addressing, the latest round of punch-or-be-punched concerns electric vehicles (EVs). Those who benefit from our fossil fuel dependence, including the Yankee Institute and the Heritage Foundation (both of which get money from fossil fuel giant Koch Foundation) have once again put out false and misleading information, and have mobilized people to block the transition from internal combustion engines to those with electric motors.

As usual, these fossil fuel shills posing as legitimate think tanks rely on talking points from such groups as “Life: Powered” whose website states: “Renewable energy plays a marginal and slowly growing role in our electricity generation mix, but wind and solar energy will never become a main power source…”

The latest propaganda from the Yankee Institute relies on a report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation which, despite its neutral-sounding name, lists among its legislative priorities: “guarantee Texas has access to affordable and reliable energy.” (The right wing’s code words for oil.) In addition to sitting on the board of Life: Powered, one of the study’s authors, Jason Isaac, boasts of being a frequent contributor to the Epoch Times, which the New York Times called “a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.” (Oct. 24, 2020 edition.)

Please, folks, consider the source whenever swallowing anti-environmental rhetoric. 

So as a state legislator, I am, along with my colleagues, once again responding to the disinformation campaign that is duping unwitting citizens into thinking EVs are the devil’s own handiwork. 

My environmentally-oriented colleagues and I are being bombarded with mass-produced letters (complete with the same typo) urging us to vote against adoption of the California Standards to regulate emissions from light-duty passenger vehicles (cars), and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (trucks). These Standards would help us reduce carbon in the air by up to 90 percent. Carbon reduction, as anyone with half a brain knows by now, is essential to sustaining life on earth. Still, there are folks who continue to issue anti-EV propaganda to gin up fear while continuing to rack up mind-boggling profits.

So, for the record:

Myth: The new Standards will make me give up my car. 

Reality: No, they won’t. The regulations govern only new cars, not those currently being driven, or the used cars of the future. And the regulation is phased in; beginning in 2035, new cars sold in Connecticut must not have combustible, fossil fuel-engineered engines. 

Myth: Connecticut is nothing like California, so we should pass our own emissions standards.

Reality: We can’t, per federal law, adopt our own standards. This is because sometime after California became the first state to hold its transportation sector accountable for pollution, the EPA developed less stringent standards for the nation as a whole. The EPA allowed California to keep its own standards, and required states to choose one: the more environmentally responsible California Standards, or the still helpful (but less stringent) EPA standards. If we in Connecticut care about air quality, we should adopt the California Standards. 

Myth: The technology is too new and we’re not ready, as a society, to transition to EVs. 

Reality: The prototype for electric cars was invented in 1830. (That’s not a mistake — 1830.) EVs saw a resurgence of interest in the 1960s and again in the 1970s following the OPEC oil crisis, and again in the 1990s. But the fossil fuel lobby effectively killed them. Americans are famously inventive, so let’s assume, shall we, that when there’s a buck to be made, American companies will figure out how to do it in record time? Like everything else, EV production, and the necessary charging station infrastructure, will be market-driven.

Myth: The California Standards was a Democratic initiative opposed by Republicans. 

Reality: When Republican Ronald Reagan became governor of California in 1967, he upheld the state’s vehicle emissions standards that had been set in 1966 under his (Democratic) predecessor. Furthermore, it was Republican President Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, and who signed into law The Clean Air Act Extension, which required the EPA to create and enforce regulations against the airborne pollution of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and lead. Even Nixon knew that a strong American economy and a healthy standard of living were not mutually exclusive. Since that time, the GOP has politicized environmentalism and climate change to suit its own agenda. 

Myth: This is a new idea being foisted on the public. 

Reality: The Connecticut Legislature voted back in 2004 to adopt these standards but the State of Connecticut never implemented them. 

Myth: There aren’t enough charging stations.

Reality: While there aren’t enough right now, there will be by the time the standards go into effect. After all, fossil fuel giants, like Shell and BP, are heavily investing in EV charging stations. Shell bought two EV charging station providers — Volta (in 2023) and Green Lots (in 2019). Shell now has 57,000 EV charging stations in the United States and Europe; meanwhile, it has been whittling down its gas stations (46,000 gas stations as of this year). On its own website, Shell boasts about its EV goals: “Shell has a target to operate over 500,000 charging points worldwide by 2025 and 2.5 million by 2030.” Again, why does the GOP — the party of Citizens United and all things business-oriented — have so little faith in American Capitalism (not to mention job creation)? When the smart money is converting to EVs, why would anyone choose to remain in the dark and deny people jobs in the green economy?

Myth: There is no transparency about these regulations and the public is being kept in the dark. 

Reality: Read what the DEEP has to say here.

Myth: EVs are too expensive and out of reach for most households. 

Reality: Right now, EVs are pricey, it’s true. But what the naysayers do not tell consumers is that they will save an average of $1,440 yearly by not buying gas (based on an average monthly mileage of 1,200 miles, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration); that EVs require far less maintenance and repairs; that significant tax rebates (up to $7,500 from the Inflation Reduction Act and up to another $7,500 from the State of Connecticut’s CHEAPR program depending on the car model) exist for Connecticut purchasers; and that by updating the clean car rules, Connecticut will get priority for deliveries of the most affordable EVs. Prices will continue to drop, just as the cost of a personal computer has dropped precipitously. (A Compaq Portable II personal computer cost $3,499 in 1986, or the equivalent of $8,723 today.) Similarly, in the EV market, Capitalism will prevail because innovative companies always find ways to reduce costs to meet demand. What cannot wait for the public’s “demand” is the future of our planet.

Which leads to a final reality without a corresponding myth: only we can decide what our legacy will be. What will we say to our grandchildren when they ask what we did to combat climate change? “I accepted a slight inconvenience to rid the air you breathe of deadly fumes” is a good answer.

State Rep. Christine Palm represents Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam. She is a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee and has introduced a resolution to amend the state constitution to create unconditional absentee balloting.

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