Maine is doing a lot to cut polluting emissions and confront the climate crisis. And amid the Earth’s hottest summer, where extreme weather is a daily occurrence, our state has an opportunity to address the biggest source of climate-damaging pollution: gas-guzzling cars and trucks.

If Maine adopts any version of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule, it would not force residents to give up their gas-powered vehicles, or stop people from driving, buying or selling used gas-powered cars. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The electrification of cars and trucks is well underway, driven largely by consumers who love the cost savings and smooth rides. But this transition needs help, which is best provided through the adoption of a rule known as the Advanced Clean Cars II, which would speed up this process and ensure that Mainers have access to clean and practical vehicles. Already adopted or being considered by states throughout the country — including four of our New England neighbors — this rule would bring more clean cars to our streets by gradually phasing out the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

It is imperative that Maine adopt the rule this year if we are to hit our climate targets, to say nothing of the health and economic benefits. However, the rule currently pending before the state Board of Environmental Protection deviates from all other versions adopted throughout the country: It doesn’t go all the way toward cleaning up this key source of harmful emissions. Instead, it stops in 2032, when only 80% of new vehicles sold would be required to be electric.

Maine should adopt the full Advanced Clean Cars II rule, which would require that all new cars sold in the state be clean by 2035. Going all-in on clean vehicles means providing certainty and direction to families and businesses; better enabling planning and investment, and reaping greater climate, health and economic savings.

It is almost certain that the fossil fuel industry will employ the same scare tactics to oppose efforts to break our addiction to their “drug” — so it is important to be very clear about what these proposed rules will and will not do. The rule applies to all new cars sold — so it doesn’t force any Mainer to give up their gas-powered vehicle, or stop people from driving, buying or selling used gas-powered cars. Indeed, plenty of  gas-guzzlers will still be on the road in 2035, even if Maine adopts the full version of the rule. Assuming people are still willing to pay more to fuel and service those dinosaurs.

Maine is ready for full adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II rule. The move to clean cars is already happening because they are cost-effective and reliable, and people enjoy driving them. And the billions of dollars being poured into the technology ensures that model types will only continue to increase while prices decrease. GM’s recent decision to reverse plans to stop producing the Chevy Bolt is just one example of how consumer demand is driving this market.

Electric cars and trucks are also cheaper to operate and maintain. The cost of clean electricity will always be cheaper and less volatile than the costs of gasoline and diesel.

And the infrastructure is ready, too. Most people will charge at home or at work for regular driving. Bolstered by billions in federal dollars, the public charging network is also growing fast to serve the needs of people on long trips or who don’t have access to home charging. Adopting the full rule will provide additional certainty and therefore allow more investment in chargers, moving things along more quickly.

Maine should adopt the Advanced Clean Cars II rule this year and, in doing so, it should go all in with a full 2035 standard. We really don’t have another option, not when half our fossil fuel emissions come from the transportation sector and not if our state is going to comply with its ambitious climate law of reducing carbon emissions by 45% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. This summer of fires, a rapidly warming Gulf of Maine and extreme wet and hot weather calls for Maine to go all the way to 100% clean cars.

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