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Wyoming GOP lawmaker pushes electric-car ban, then says he didn’t mean it

Tesla vehicles charge at a station in January 2023. (Eric Thayer/Bloomberg News)

A group of Republican lawmakers in Wyoming introduced a bill last week urging the legislature to seek to phase out the sale of new electric vehicles by 2035.

Electric vehicles are impractical, and their batteries hog precious resources, the lawmakers said. Fox Business reported that the bill would “protect a state economy largely fueled by gas and oil.” (Wyoming is the country’s eighth largest crude oil producer, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.)

But state Sen. Jim Anderson, who introduced the bill, said he doesn’t actually want electric vehicle sales to be phased out, though the resolution pushes the legislature to seek just that.

“I don’t have a problem with electric vehicles at all,” Anderson said in a phone interview Monday evening. Anyone who wants to buy an electric vehicle should have the freedom to, he said, adding that his friends and family members have them.

Instead, his resolution was motivated by California’s move in August to proceed with a ban on sales of new vehicles powered only by gas by 2035.

“I have a problem with somebody saying, ‘Don’t buy any more petroleum vehicles,’” Anderson said, adding that he introduced the bill “just to get the message out that we’re not happy with the states that are outlawing our vehicles.” (Anderson, who represents Natrona County in central Wyoming, which includes the city of Casper, said he and his wife “drive diesel vehicles and gas vehicles,” but declined to specify what kind.)

As is often the case with other regulations passed by the economic behemoth that is California, the ban is likely to affect the automotive industry nationwide. The resolution allows for the sales of used gas-powered cars and a limited number of new plug-in hybrids.

Whereas California’s law would “force” people to buy electric cars, Anderson said, his bill was “just a resolution saying, ‘We don’t like your bill that you did.’”

California moves toward banning new cars running only on gas by 2035

Despite Anderson’s empathy for people who choose to drive electric vehicles, his resolution — co-sponsored by five other lawmakers — outlines a laundry list of reasons against them, and in support of gas-powered vehicles.

“Since its invention, the gas-powered vehicle has enabled the state’s industries and businesses to engage in commerce and transport goods and resources more efficiently throughout the country,” the bill says in its preamble. “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.”

Discontinuing sales of electric vehicles, it continues, “will ensure the stability of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry and will help preserve the country’s critical minerals for vital purposes.”

While Wyoming’s mining industry is mostly known for extracting coal — it supplies up to 40 percent of national demand for coal, according to the Bureau of Land Management — the state also contains reserves of resources such as cobalt, and potential stores of graphite, both of which are used in electric vehicle batteries.

Wyoming is set to receive nearly $24 million over five years from the federal government to improve charging infrastructure along Interstates 80, 25 and 90, the state transportation department said in June.

“Electric cars are of great benefit to Wyoming,” said Marc Geller, spokesman for the Electric Vehicle Association, a California-based nonprofit that advocates for the use of EVs, as they are often called.

Anderson said “it’d be nice” for the state to mine materials for electric vehicle batteries, but he raised concerns about where the batteries end up when they are disposed.

Instead of banning electric cars, Geller joked, “maybe we should ban all cars and go back to horses.”

For the moment, however, potential electric vehicle buyers in Wyoming can rest assured that their purchases will still be permitted.

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