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Coming for your car: The impossibility of Inslee’s electric vehicle mandate

electric vehicles

“And then they came for your car . . . ” More than 2.5 million vehicles are registered to Washington drivers, and Governor Jay Inslee wants to replace all of them with electric vehicles by 2035. Get ready for a car ban.  

Gov. Inslee and his cohorts have not been shy about announcing their plan to mandate the use of electric vehicles in the state of Washington in order to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – stripping residents of their right to choose which vehicles they can purchase and drive. Yet, it turns out, the administration’s overzealous and under-researched plan isn’t even achievable based on findings about the resource requirements of electric vehicles.

A new study by Professors Lawrence M. Cathles of Cornell and Adam Simon of the University of Michigan Earth & Environmental Sciences, examined the use of copper in electric vehicles and wind turbines and determined that based on current industry expectations and lawmakers’ goals, copper cannot be mined fast enough to meet the projected demands.

“A normal Honda Accord needs about 40 pounds of copper. The same battery electric Honda Accord needs almost 200 pounds of copper,” the study observed. “Onshore wind turbines require about 10 tons of copper, and in offshore wind turbines, that amount can more than double. The amount of copper needed is essentially impossible for mining companies to produce.” (emphasis added)

Washington ranks third in a national survey of states with the most cars registered per capita – 37,000 automobiles per 100,000 residents – higher than California. Only a fraction of the 2.5 million vehicles registered in Washington state are currently electric, meaning millions of new electric vehicles would need to be produced to accommodate Inslee’s ban on gasoline-powered vehicles – not to mention the ever-increasing demand for electric vehicles outside the state of Washington, as well as wind turbines and other renewable energy equipment. Take a look at the analysis below:

[The study] found that the demand that renewable energy demands outpaces what copper mines can currently produce. According to Simon, much of the problem lies in the bureaucracy that takes place in between when a new copper mineral deposit is discovered and a permit to mine and extract copper is actually issued; which can take a whopping 20 years.

Their study finds that in order to meet the needs of EV adoption on a global scale, up to six new copper mines need to be operational over the next few decades, with up to 40% of their output reserved for just EV-related materials. As per Simon and Cathles’ data, the world’s copper mines will need to produce 115% more copper than has been mined in all of human history up until 2018 in order to meet demand.

Inslee’s plan to replace every gasoline powered vehicle in Washington with an electric vehicle is not only unrealistic based on the EV industry, but it places an unnecessary burden on consumers to purchase a specific type of vehicle that may not fit their needs or financial situation. This policy is problem-ridden, start to finish.

“[This study] shows the myopic ideology of Gov. Inslee and Legislative Democrats who are imposing mandates based on their poorly thought-out climate agenda without contemplating– let alone having the basic understanding of–the supply chain realities of what they are collectively imposing,” local news commentator Phil Vandervor wrote. “That myopia shows the clear lack of leadership at play in Olympia and the halls of state government. Inslee and Democrats are clearly more interested in their ideological victories than providing solutions that work in the real world.” (emphasis added)

Let’s be clear: FPIW supports a balanced approach to decarbonization, environmental compliance, renewable energy, and grid reliability so we can have affordable, reliable, and environmentally sustainable energy for generations to come. We believe Washington State has trouble on the horizon – trouble with a reliable electrical grid. The trouble stems from attempts to decarbonize our state. Getting rid of coal, oil and gas without a realistic plan to replace them will do more harm than good. A key example of that is Inslee’s faulty vision of a fully electric vehicle state.


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