The US state of Wyoming is considering plans to ban the sale of electric cars from 2035. The efforts in the least populated US state are thus contrary to those in the rest of the world. The reason given for the electric car ban is to protect the domestic oil and gas industry.
Electric car ban in Wyoming: Against the rest of the world?
News coverage of Wyoming’s efforts to ban not the sale of cars with internal combustion engines, but those with electric powertrains, has been met with reactions that range from amazement to derision. The state, with a population of only about 576,000, appears backward-looking with its plan – especially against the backdrop of progressive environmental legislation, such as that taking place in California. The justification for the push turns out accordingly: Oil and gas production, which “has long been one of Wyoming’s proudest and most valued industries,” needs to be protected, it says. The fossil fuel industry, which has been confirmed by various sources to have no future, is to be kept alive in Wyoming by law.
Economically, this seems unsurprising when considering the state’s economic output. Mining, primarily oil, natural gas, coal, salt, uranium, iron ore, trona and methane gas, is Wyoming’s most important industry. The prosperity of the inhabitants is based on it. With a real GDP of $64,659 in 2016, Wyoming was well above the U.S. average of $57,118. This ranked Wyoming ninth among the 50 U.S. states.
The desire to protect this wealth generator therefore seems obvious at first. However, if the costs incurred by the resulting climate change amplification are priced in, the picture is entirely different. That such considerations have no place in Wyoming, which is clearly dominated by the Republican Party, is demonstrated by Senator Brian Boner. To the newspaper Cowboy State Daily he spoke of “so-called climate change” with regard to the project.
Sen. Jim Anderson also pointed in that direction, saying, “This ordinance would say [toward California and New York], ‘If you don’t like our internal combustion cars, fine, we don’t like your electric cars.'” Anderson, who put forward the proposal, explicitly sees the electric car ban as a counterattack against the aforementioned states, which (want to) ban cars with internal combustion engines.
Fight against impractical electric cars
Arguments against electric cars further put forth by the Republican Party in Wyoming include that they are impractical and present too many challenges. For example, the lack of charging station infrastructure in Wyoming was pointed out. This prevents the effective use of electric vehicles. Vehicles with internal combustion engines are therefore necessary for transporting goods, for example. No thought was apparently given to expanding the infrastructure. The Republican Party also cites the consumption of rare minerals for the construction of the batteries as an argument against them. These minerals, they say, are only available in limited quantities and could be put to more useful use elsewhere. In addition, according to Wyoming, the electric cars would eventually have to be disposed of at great expense. Landfills in the state are not equipped to do that, they said. All of this makes electric mobility impractical and an immature alternative to one based on internal combustion engines.
However, the fact that the resolution will not be able to stop the traffic shift toward electric mobility has also been recognized in Wyoming. Boner therefore sees it primarily as a symbolic act: “You could say it’s not really meant seriously. Nevertheless, it obviously deals with a serious issue that deserves public discussion.” It should also be noted in this context that the resolution would have no binding force of law. It could thus prohibit the sale of electric cars symbolically, but not de facto. Overall, the proposal in Wyoming appears to be a conservative backlash against a more ecologically oriented transportation policy. Nationally and internationally, Wyoming is likely to become increasingly isolated with an electric car ban. In 2021, for example, numerous states agreed to ban cars with internal combustion engines from 2040.
Update: Push Failed
The push, which was introduced recently, has failed. It was discussed in the relevant Senate committee but failed to gain sufficient traction. Anderson is nonetheless pleased: The resolution’s proposal has led to U.S.-wide attention and brought the problems of electric cars into the public eye, he said.