A community perspectives piece by Alleyn Harned
In this General Assembly, Delegate Tony Wilt has introduced new legislation which seeks to increase consumers’ transportation costs and to maintain our dependence on foreign oil, both of which are unacceptable in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia that produces no oil and can benefit so greatly from access to these 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.
The delegate’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 benefits Maryland and North Carolina’s economies, limits our residents’ choices, and puts 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 on higher-costing gasoline, which currently hovers from $3.25 to $3.50. All this posted at a time where we hear major announcements from automakers of new technology offerings ahead. We don’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 we produce vehicle components and lots of low cost low emission electricity. With today’s retail electricity costs, an EV is only about $1 a gallon equivalent. By delaying access this bill locks in fuel prices 200% higher, and furthers reliance on imported oil.
Transportation is Virginia’s largest home energy cost, often four times the cost of heating, cooling and electricity, and is borne greater 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 for electric cars are also expected to be greater in rural areas which often require longer distance travel and have access to low cost clean electric energy. Fueleconomy.gov is a great source folks can see how much money would be saved from and electric vehicle over 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.
This bill’s intent to delay 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 less premature deaths by 2050, 1783 asthma attacks avoided in 2050, and economic enhancement with 8189 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.
Alleyn Harned is Director of Virginia Clean Cities, a Harrisonburg resident. Virginia Clean Cities is a statewide nonprofit organization working to reduce Virginia’s dependence on oil through transportation solutions.