Second blog in our series on the Colorado Green New Deal
Colorado’s Democrat party-controlled government has decided to manufacture, or at least play a part in generating the demand for zero emission vehicles, known also as electric vehicles (EV).
Increasing the number of EVs on the road is a vital component of the Colorado Green New Deal. Our state’s electric vehicle plan laid out the ambitious goal of having close to a million zero emission vehicles traveling Colorado roadways by 2030. This means Coloradans will have to purchase 927,000 EVs in just 12 years, which is a whopping 77,250 EVs per year.
It won’t be easy considering there are just over 11,000 EVs on the road today and 71 of every 100 vehicles sold in Colorado is either a truck or SUV, a vehicle that for reasons attributing to both economics and technology has much fewer fully electric options than smaller sedans and roadsters.
Nevertheless, the Democrats have the pedal to the metal with this agenda, and both Democrat Governor Jared Polis and the Democrats in the General Assembly are willing to legislate EV adoption through government action.
Following their sweep in the November 2018 elections, our newly elected Governor struck first. Within two weeks of being sworn into office, Governor Polis issued an executive order mandating the sale of electric vehicles. The President of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association Tim Jackson disagreed with the executive order, arguing it gives the government too much authority in the decision-making process of the automotive industry.
In 2008, when Congress was considering a bailout package for the automotive industry, then Congressman Polis would have most likely agreed with Jackson. In an article written for the Wall Street Journal, he criticized his colleagues for readily getting involved in the business dealings of automobile companies, writing:
Among the reasons I ran for Congress, one was to make government work. Let’s get government back to doing the work of government. Reading business plans and making investments is the job of equity funds and turnaround specialists, not members of Congress.
Apparently, he has since changed his mind about government involvement and is more than willing to intervene and force dealerships to sell electric vehicles, which Colorado residents, for various reasons, don’t want.
One likely reason is the price differential between to the two types of automobiles. EVs cost significantly more; for example, a 2019 Chevy Bolt retails at around $37,000, whereas a brand-new 2019 Chevy Malibu costs slightly more than $22,000. This reality is especially apparent when you consider the majority of EV owners earn at least $100,000/year and are purchasing their second or third vehicle.
However, the Democrats are attempting to solve this inconvenient truth by artificially lowering the price of zero-emission vehicles through tax credits. Currently, Colorado’s EV tax credits are slated to end in 2022. Representatives Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D-Boulder County) and Matt Gray (D-Boulder, Broomfield Counties) and Senator Jessie Danielson (D-Jefferson County) have different plans. They are hoping to extend them through 2025 with passage of HB19-1159, “Modify Innovative Motor Vehicle Income Tax Credits.”
It is important to note that HB19-1159 has an immense opportunity cost. If adopted, the General Fund will not receive see $67 million that could have been dedicated to education, roads, or even an energy poverty assistance program.
Price isn’t the only factor inhibiting widespread adoption of electric vehicles, though. There is still the issue of “range anxiety,” generally defined as the fear of driving outside the range of EV vehicles and charging stations.`
The market could resolve this issue, but the Democrats have decided it’s a government problem and introduced SB19-077 (has not been signed into law) and HB19-1198 (has been signed into law) to fix it.
SB19-077 would allow electric utilities to rate base the construction costs of charging stations, which to be of any practical use must be direct current fast charging stations. While this type of charging station can recharge a battery in thirty minutes, it is both expensive to build and use. High demand charges coupled with the price of the actual energy can cost over a hundred dollars for a single recharge. Storage systems will have to be installed, only increasing the bill captive ratepayers, who mostly own gas-powered cars, will be forced to pay.
HB19-1198, “Electric Vehicle Grant Fund” modified the fund by allowing portions of it to be granted to “universities, public transit agencies, local governments, landlords of multi-family apartment buildings, private nonprofit or for-profit corporations, and the unit owners’ associations of common interest… to install charging stations for electric vehicles.”
Representative Alex Valdez, Senator Brittany Pettersen, and Senator Faith Winter’s House Bill 1199 attempted to implement perhaps the most enticing incentive to purchase an electric vehicle yet. The bill would have allowed EV owners to bypass Denver traffic, which according to Inrix was the 21st worst in the United states and the 23rd worst in all of North America in 2017, by having access to traditional HOV lanes for free and high-occupancy toll lanes for a discounted price after paying the $35 fee at registration.
Fortunately, the House Committee on Finance killed the bill. Be on the lookout next year, though, the Democrats still have another session before the 2020 elections.
Widespread electric vehicle adoption is a key component of the Colorado Green New Deal. From forcing dealerships to sell EVs to reducing their purchase price to increasing charging accessibility, the Democrats are more than willing to intervene in the market and force desired outcomes.
Paraphrasing from my previous blog post, the weak suffer what they must at the hands of the strong. However, if history is any guide, ambition can be one’s greatest threat. The Athenians had little trouble subduing the small isle of Melos but a hubris attempt to invade Sicily was disastrous and precipitated their final defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
Without a majority in either chamber, the Republicans are hard pressed to stop the Democrats’ agenda. 2020 isn’t too far off though, and evidenced by the Athenians, sometimes your opponents’ greatest threat is their self.
*Original blog post has been revised to reflect HB19-1159’s latest fiscal note.