GUEST COLUMN: Don’t force a West Coast fix on Colorado

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A mere four months into his governorship, Jared Polis has made it abundantly clear: despite running to be the governor of Colorado, he’d prefer our roads mimic those straight out of California. Polis is using the heavy hammer of government to force us into electric vehicles. This ill-conceived approach fails to take into account the substantial differences in terrain, infrastructure, population, and weather we have with the Golden State.

The majority of Coloradans (99%) drive cars that run on liquid transportation fuels. Some of us grew up in Colorado, where our families have been for generations, and an increasing number are choosing to come here from other parts of the country, but we all drive the cars we want to drive that best fit our lifestyles. Good ideas are welcome from all corners, but we have Colorado-shaped problems, which require our solutions.

Drivers in the Denver area lost 83 hours (about 3.5 days) sitting in traffic congestion in 2018 — a number we see increasing year over year. That boils down to a cost of approximately $1,150 per driver. The human cost is even more concerning: 911 calls requiring an ambulance in Denver are also on the rise, and gridlock is cutting into response times in situations where minutes and seconds can hardly be more valuable.

With these factors weighing on the minds of our legislators, what appeared on the docket this spring? The Colorado Clean Pass Act, which would have allowed drivers of electric vehicles a free ride in coveted HOV lanes. The cost to Colorado taxpayers? Conservatively, $2 million per year.

Thankfully, that little automotive hall pass didn’t make it out of committee. Unfortunately, that was just one bill in a salvo of legislation aimed at using the government to coerce us into electric vehicles.

Most notably, Gov. Polis’ first executive order included a directive for a zero-emission vehicles rule, lifted directly from the California State Code, and grafted wholesale into our own without the opportunity for modification.

The problem here: Colorado is not California. We have a different mix of cars on the road — close to 75/25 trucks and SUVs to cars, versus California’s 50/50. With far fewer options in the marketplace, truck and SUV drivers are all but taken out of the running for EV incentives, just off the bat.

Our weather is another major difference, and our Rocky Mountain lows present a whole set of challenges to electric vehicles that are less common in most parts of California. In 20 degree temperatures, the average EV driving range plunges by 41%. So instead of getting from X to Y on a charge, your car could die on the side of the road.

Meanwhile, internal combustion engines are expected to see 20 to 30% improvements in efficiency in the coming years. It would be ideal to allow each Coloradan the ability to decide if they’d like to purchase one of those vehicles on an even playing field without tilting consumers toward more expensive electric vehicles.

Also remember, Colorado policymakers will need to dedicate millions, if not billions, of dollars to create the kind of infrastructure and financial incentives that will encourage consumers to purchase these vehicles. All one needs to do is look at the last budget battle to wonder where funding would be found. Before implementing the zero-emissions vehicle mandate, state policymakers owe it to Colorado taxpayers to show us how they are going to come up with the funding to pay for such an expensive venture.

If Gov. Polis is so set on these major changes, he should consider creating a charitable organization to which he can personally donate to help Coloradans underwrite the cost of electric vehicles — rather than using government force to further his proposals.

Kelly Maher is a nationally recognized Republican commentator and executive director for Compass Colorado, a center-right, free-market advocacy organization.

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