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Wyoming's would-be ban on sale of electric vehicles veers off road

Like crude oil and water, cowboys and EVs don't mix

No, Wyoming lawmakers didn't get their bill backwards. A group of them led by Republican state senator Jim Anderson actually introduced a resolution last week to ban the sale of electric vehicles in the Cowboy State by 2035.

While it cites the importance of the oil and gas industry to Wyoming and the need to protect it, Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJ4) doesn't actually come with any enforcement powers – it simply "encourages and expresses as a goal" the elimination of new EV sales.

SJ4 also happens to thumb the state legislature's collective nose at the rest of the US, which has already expressed intent to buy more EVs by ensuring copies of the resolution are sent to the US president, federal legislative leaders and the governor of California, which last year enacted a phase-out of internal combustion vehicles by 2035.

Alas, nose-thumbing will not be had as local news reports indicate SJ4 died in committee yesterday after pushback from the Wyoming Dealership Association, Democratic state representatives and the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

Senator Anderson didn't seem too concerned about the bill's failure, though, saying to the Cowboy State Daily that the legislation's intent wasn't even to force dealerships to actually quit engaging in what the resolution calls "the misadventure of electric vehicles."

"We just wanted to make a statement that there is a counter to stopping selling gas vehicles in other states," Anderson said. 

Tongue-in-cheek or foot in mouth?

SJ4 was never intended as anything more than a symbolic gesture that bill co-sponsor Republican senator Brian Boner described as "tongue-in-cheek."

"I'm interested in making sure that the solutions that some folks want to the so-called climate crisis are actually practical in real life," Boner told the Cowboy State Daily

Aside from the fact that the state is one of the top 10 US crude oil producers, which factors heavily into the resolution's criticisms, SJ4 does make some realistic arguments against the expansion of EVs in Wyoming, like the necessity of importing minerals used in EV batteries.

While the US Department of Energy is tossing billions of dollars at domestic EV battery manufacturing, it doesn't change the fact that a considerable portion of the mineral raw materials to manufacture EV batteries continue to be imported [PDF], the resolution said. 

But the resolution also argues that "Wyoming's vast stretches of highway, coupled with a lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, make the widespread use of electric vehicles impracticable for the state." 

That might be the case right now, but it may not be for much longer given the Biden administration's National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, from which Wyoming is being allotted $3.9 million in 2022 and a total of $23.96m over the next five years. 

The NEVI program derives its funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and plans for all 50 states, along with Washington DC and Puerto Rico, have been approved. As part of the initiative, the Biden administration said it wants to deploy 500,000 EV chargers nationwide by 2030

The resolution also argues that EV batteries "are not easily recyclable or disposable," though, like using a lack of infrastructure right now as a reason not to invest in the future, this too is a point that could be irrelevant in the next few years as EV battery recycling programs and closed-loop manufacturing proliferate.

Auto execs = not amused

Like representatives from the Wyoming Dealership Association told the Wyoming Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee yesterday, EV investments have already begun and flippant statements opposing them aren't welcomed by Wyoming's auto dealers. 

Marsha Allen, executive vice president of the WDA, said she also doesn't support state and federal mandates that "trickle down to policy in Wyoming," but it's too late to rebottle the genie: dealerships are already investing cash in EV equipment needed to keep their showrooms open.

Allen said Cadillac's planned shift to an all-electric lineup by 2025, for example, has come with requirements from the company that dealerships invest their own money to build more lifts able to handle heavy EVs and charging stations.

Allen said Cadillac dealerships have had to make minimum investments of $250,000, while some have spent upwards of half a million. The resolution may have been just a statement, but it's one that asks dealerships to violate agreements already made with automakers and encourages consumers not to visit showrooms, Allen said. 

"Casual statements can cause real harm," Allen told the committee. ®

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