WRITTEN BY: Kevin Lee, MCEA Staff Attorney
I admit it: I drove to work today in a vehicle powered by fossil fuels. Here in Minnesota, that means it was probably powered by gasoline refined from the tar sands deposits of Alberta. But my Subaru’s days are numbered, because when the Chevy Bolt and its 200+ mile range become available in Minnesota this summer, a Bolt will take its place in our garage.
Luckily, we are not alone. Electric vehicles have finally arrived en masse, and the world is taking notice. The costs of EV batteries are plummeting, and Ford Motor Company now predicts that EVs will outnumber internal combustion engine vehicles within 15 years. This is of course fantastic news for the climate. Even in the relatively coal-heavy electric grid of Minnesota, EVs produce between 61% and 95% less greenhouse gas than a comparable gasoline-fueled vehicle.
The vast majority of those crude oil products are destined for use in the transportation sector, so the need for new pipelines is inextricably linked to the demand for gasoline and diesel fuels for transportation.
MCEA believes that demand for crude oil will only go down as EVs become commonplace. Already, demand for gasoline in Minnesota is down almost 30% from the 1990s, and EV adoption is just getting started. Building a new pipeline now, with a 30-50 year lifespan, strikes us an investment in a technology that is on its way out.
But some state legislators, it would seem, are interested in none of this. A recently introduced bill, House File 1151, would exempt pipelines from the ‘certificate of need’ requirement. Currently, a company that wants to build a large energy facility such as a power plant or a pipeline must demonstrate to the state Public Utilities Commission that the project is in the state’s best interests and is based on accurate energy forecasts. As the name implies, the requirement is designed to ensure that we don’t build large projects that we don’t need.
This bill would eliminate that requirement for pipelines, allowing a pipeline company to build pipelines regardless of whether their forecasts for gasoline use are accurate or not. This is a terrible way of deciding our energy future in Minnesota. If passed, the bill would almost completely remove public oversight of pipeline proposals, making sure that industry – not the public - controls our fossil fuel future. Thankfully, some legislators have recognized the folly of delegating critical energy decisions to industry and are working hard to stop this bill in its tracks. As this bill advances through the legislature, MCEA will be on hand to help those legislators fight for energy decisions that are based on sound information, not just industry’s wishful thinking.