Readers Write: Electric vehicles, solar power on school roofs

Democrats are correct that the vehicle industry must and will switch from gas-powered to electric-powered vehicles. But Republicans are also correct that electric vehicles do not pay gasoline taxes, which support our roadways and ground transportation infrastructure. The clear solution is that the gasoline tax needs to be dropped and replaced with some other type of use tax that would apply to all vehicles.

At first glance, one could consider a tax on all vehicle registrations, but that would not take into account the fact that some vehicle owners drive much more than others. It occurs to me that one solution would be a tax on tires, which all vehicles use. The tax would be best based on the cost of the tire, since more expensive tires generally last longer than cheaper tires. The amount of the tax would have to be related to the number of miles that the particular tire is likely to be driven. Although not a perfect or exact solution, this would fairly apportion the road upkeep costs among all drivers as we gradually switch to electric vehicles.

Mark S. Donnell, Silver City, N.M.
• • •

The Star Tribune Editorial Board misrepresented what it means to be a California car state and the auto dealers’ position on this misguided approach (“No need for ‘or else’ legislative demands,” editorial, May 8).

Minnesota’s auto dealers agree that electric vehicles (EVs) can play an important role in reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t agree that adopting California’s zero emission vehicle supply mandate is the “sensible approach” to get more EVs on the road. We believe in increasing demand instead of mandating supply. States that have implemented EV purchase incentives and invested in charging stations have realized better-than-average annual EV sales. In fact, California has invested nearly $1 billion in consumer rebates and another $2 billion in charging infrastructure to reach annual EV sales of 8%. The Walz administration has proposed almost nothing in EV investments, but by adopting California’s standards, is requiring dealers to have 7% of the vehicles on their lots be EVs, without stimulating demand.

And, as we’ve been trying to inform the Star Tribune for the past year and a half, this is not and cannot be a Minnesota standard. The Clean Air Act only allows states to follow the federal standard — or California’s. And the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is choosing to follow California right as it begins to update its rules to include a ban on the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles altogether.

The governor has steadfastly refused to discuss these concerns with Minnesota auto dealers. We would encourage him and the Star Tribune to understand the facts on this controversial rule.

Scott Lambert, West St. Paul

The writer is president, Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association.

• • •

Minneapolis Water Taxi has been operating electric boats for four years in Minneapolis. We are very happy how business has progressed; however, take a peek at the city and parks websites. Neither one recognizes us.

EVs are too new for most people to be comfortable with. We could be a model for education with EVs. We even have one taxi that charges by its own solar array.

Greg Hoseth, Rogers

The writer is a co-founder of Minneapolis Water Taxi.

• • •

In the push for totally electric vehicles that require plug-in charging, I wish to make everyone aware that there will always be a somewhat large segment of the population for whom these vehicles will not be practical.

I live in a senior co-op and drive a hybrid vehicle, which I am very happy with. There is absolutely no way that I will ever be able to have access to the necessary charging capabilities for a plug-in electric vehicle. Besides that, there will also be a sizable segment of the population who simply cannot afford to own such charging capabilities. For me and for a lot of others, a hybrid vehicle is the best option and even that option is quite limited at the current time.

Linda Urbik, St. Cloud
• • •

A postscript to several recent letters to the editor regarding EVs — this one relating to the adoption of higher emission standards, now being debated at the Capitol (“You sure demand is low?” Readers Write, May 10). My own recent experience seems to me to make plain why it would be a good policy to adopt those standards, certainly for the environment if it helps prod us to fewer climate-changing emissions, but also for consumers.

Our two cars, a nine-year-old SUV and 22-year-old VW, get around 25 mpg. They run well and we’re frugal (our kids say cheap). But we finally decided we needed to do our part for cleaning the air and go electric. Now retired, we’d also like to go down to one car. Our quandary is that we run back and forth to our lake home in northern Minnesota a lot, including in the winter. We need four-wheel drive and lots of range. I was very excited to see Toyota now makes a RAV4 Prime that is a plug-in hybrid. The first 42 miles of use is all electric — probably accounting for 90% of our use needing no gas at all. But it has range and power when we need it. So as a highly motivated customer ready to buy, I called Toyota dealers in the Twin Cities and got the same answer: They’ve been on the market for a year now, but won’t be coming to Minnesota for another two to three years — they’re all going to states like California that have higher emission standards.

Very discouraging. I suppose some will go to California to buy one, giving their business to those dealers instead of our own. By resisting the more progressive standards, Minnesota becomes a drag on efforts to slow the destructive march of a changing climate, and narrows the choices of the car-buying public. Enlightened public policy is needed!

(So we traded our old VW for a used Leaf — a Nissan EV — and our in-town running around is now emission-free. But we’re waiting for a RAV4 Prime.)

Peter Rogness, St. Paul
SOLAR ON SCHOOLS

Put those huge, flat roofs to work

At a time when school district operating budgets are increasingly strained, we need to be looking for creative ways to continue funding teachers, support staff and the important services we provide to students. Energy expenditures can be one of the largest expenses for school districts, presenting an opportunity to apply innovative cost-saving solutions. This year, Minnesota is considering “Solar on Schools” legislation to reduce energy costs using renewable sources, allowing those savings to be used for other educational priorities.

Schools are often left out of the solar energy development conversation due to the upfront expense of installing solar energy systems. However, the large flat roofs, high energy bills and educational needs associated with schools all make Minnesota’s schools ideal candidates as solar energy sites.

Minnesota lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would provide schools with grants to install solar energy systems, so school districts can reduce energy costs and incorporate teaching about energy systems into their STEM curricula. Savings from reduced energy spending could lighten local property tax burdens or be redirected to other needs like staffing and curriculum development. Half of the grant funding will be dedicated to lower-income schools to ensure they have access to this opportunity. This is a win-win proposal for Minnesota, benefiting schools while helping stop climate change.

Legislation that is good for our schools is good for our kids, and good for our entire state. Clean energy development in our communities, unique educational tools for our students and cost-savings for our school districts make “Solar on Schools” a must-pass proposal.

This letter was signed by Rep. Patty Acomb, DFL-Minnetonka, and state Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater.

We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.

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