In 1986, Ronald Reagan quipped that the “nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
Well, New Mexico’s government is “helping” again.
In July, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced regulations for “Advanced Clean Cars and Advanced Clean Trucks.” The dictates — crafted by New Mexico Environmental Department bureaucrats, and requiring the approval the unelected members of the state’s Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board — force automobile manufacturers to make 82% of new cars sold in the Land of Enchantment zero-emission starting in 2031.
New Mexico’s drivers and truckers did not ask for the mandate. Neither did New Mexico’s car dealerships. But Lujan Grisham, and her supporters in the eco-left, don’t care about the opinions of automobile buyers or sellers. What matters more, evidently, is being as “green” as the Golden State — the draft regulations’ “objective” is to “adopt and implement the California vehicle emission standards and requirements.”
Yet it’s precisely because of the runaway government that people are leaving California. As demographer Wendell Cox recently noted, since 2000 “the state has lost 3.5 million net domestic migrants … to other states,” a number “equal to 8.9% of the state’s 2022 population.” Chapman University’s Joel Kotkin cites rampant welfarism and “worst-in-the-nation regulatory excess” as key reasons for the Golden State’s decline.
New Mexico knows something about such unwise policy choices, but it doesn’t have California’s considerable capacity to absorb self-inflicted wounds. U.S. Census Bureau data reveal that in the Land of Enchantment, median household income is more than $30,000 less than the comparable sum in the Golden State. And according to Kelley Blue Book, “the average transaction price for electric cars was $53,469 in July 2023, vs. gas-powered vehicles at $48,334.”
When it comes to EV infrastructure, New Mexico again lags behind. Last year, the state received a federal grant — D.C. is $32.7 trillion in debt, let’s not forget — to establish electric charging stations every 50 miles over the next five to 10 years. However, only areas along the interstates will be subsidized. That’s not much help to the people of Roswell, Clovis, Farmington and Silver City.
Additionally, automobile manufacturers are incapable of meeting the governor’s coerced “demand” for EVs. The problem is global in nature. Calculations by energy journalist Steve LeVine show that by 2030, nickel and lithium production will be at a level to build only 15.6 million EVs. In 2022, S&P Global Mobility estimates, worldwide, new-car sales hit nearly 80 million. Don’t look for help from the Biden administration, which is relentlessly hostile to domestic mining. Production might be boosted abroad, yes, but in countries that have atrocious environmental standards and appalling records on human rights. How is that a victory for “sustainability?”
If the governor’s personal-vehicle decree weren’t harmful enough, consider her requirement for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. By 2031, the biggest boys — Freightliners and Peterbilts — will need to be 40% electric. Currently, hydrocarbon-consuming engines hold 99% of the international heavy-truck market. Do we think that will change, substantially, in just eight years?
During a time of severe inflation, spending $5,000 more on a car because it eases the “climate anxiety” of Michelle Lujan Grisham and Santa Fe elites is not a priority for most New Mexico families. Neither is devoting a greater share of the household budget to unnecessarily high delivery fees and charges.
But there is hope. Online, the New Mexico Environment Department continues to accept feedback on the “Advanced Clean Cars and Advanced Clean Trucks” rules. Better still, you can attend the joint New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board-Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board hearing on the EV edicts. It begins, at the State Bar of New Mexico in Albuquerque, on Nov. 13, and will “continue through Nov. 15 … or as long as required to hear all testimony, evidence, and public comment.” Show up, bring your family and friends, and let regulators know that their “help” is unwanted.
Brooke Hajny, proud owner of a traditional Honda minivan, is a policy analyst for the Southwest Public Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to improving the quality of life in the American Southwest by formulating, promoting, and defending sound public policy.
Originally published at abqjournal.com on August 27, 2023.