by Alleyn Harned, a Harrisonburg resident who is Director of Virginia Clean Cities – a statewide nonprofit organization working to reduce Virginia’s dependence on oil through transportation solutions.
In this General Assembly session, Delegate Tony Wilt (R) has introduced new legislation which seeks to increase consumers’ transportation costs and to maintain our dependence on foreign oil. Both of these things, of course, are unacceptable in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, a region of Virginia that produces no oil and can benefit so greatly from access to new transportation technologies.
On Friday, January 21st, Delegate Wilt sent his constituents an email mentioning his 2022 legislation where he emphasized “clean and affordable energy” emphasizing an “all-of-the-above” energy approach, then posted House Bill 1267 which is a serious efforts to increase costs for clean energy to long-halt Virginia’s clean car emissions standards.
Delegate Wilt’s attempt to delay Virginia’s modest goals for access to electric vehicles at dealerships will send consumers to neighboring states for the rest of the decade for access to many of these electric cars. This will benefit Maryland’s and North Carolina’s economies; will limit Virginia residents’ choices; and will put Virginia at a competitive disadvantage. In the U.S., auto manufacturers send electric vehicles first to states like Virginia, which have adopted regulatory standards for the technology, something that is underway with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and auto dealers, after being signed into law in 2021. Delegate Wilt’s bill unnecessarily delays an area of agreement with government, consumers, dealers, and citizens, by adding years to an already slow enactment calendar for access to electric vehicles. Why delay Virginia’s progress and hold us back from future growth?
This delay will likely also serve to steeply increase costs to Virginia consumers for vehicles and keep consumers stuck with more-expensive gasoline, which currently hovers around $3.25-$3.50 per gallon. All at a time when we’re getting major announcements from automakers of new technology offerings ahead. Clearly, we shouldn’t want the Commonwealth and its citizens to be left behind. Electric vehicles are important for jobs, consumers, and environmental opportunity, since Virginia produces nearly no oil, but *does* produce vehicle components and an increasingly low-polluting electricity mix. With today’s relatively low retail electricity costs, an EV is only about $1 a gallon equivalent. By delaying access, this bill locks in higher fuel costs and reliance on pollution-emitting oil.
Transportation is Virginia’s largest home energy cost, often four times the cost of heating, cooling and electricity, and is borne disproportionately by rural or lower-income populations. Electrification of transportation is a way to give consumers a direct raise, by getting lower cost transportation energy to communities that need it the most. The benefits of electric cars are also expected to be greater in rural areas, which often require longer distance travel. Fueleconomy.gov is a great source where folks can see how much money would be saved from and electric vehicle compared to a traditional vehicle. There are many American-made, plug-in hybrid EVs and full EVs that also have less maintenance and lower overall costs than gasoline vehicles.
Del. Wilt’s bill’s intent to delay the adoption of EVs is also harmful for human health as transportation is a key source of pollution. The Lung Association’s Road to Clean Air report found that avoided health cost benefits in 2050 will be more than $1.3 billion in Virginia if we transition to EVs. Electric transportation contributes to 115 fewer premature deaths by 2050; 1,783 asthma attacks avoided in 2050; and 8,189 work loss days avoided by 2050 (equivalent of recreating 31 full time jobs worth of labor just for allowing the technology to advance).
Members of the Virginia General Assembly should reject this legislation and any effort to decrease Virginia’s modest clean car standards. We have an opportunity for powerful economic development with electric cars in all areas of the Commonwealth, to reduce energy dependence on imported oil, and to improve our position in the world. We should seize that opportunity.