Maine has already been a national leader in the effort to reduce carbon emissions, setting goals bold enough to meet this critical moment. As we all do our part to curb the worst effects of climate change, we have to continue taking as many steps as possible to bring these goals into reach.

Maine law requires the state to reduce its fossil fuel emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. With more than half of all emissions in the state coming from transportation, we can’t expect to hit that target without putting a lot more electric vehicles on the road.

With that law on the books, and backed by a majority of Mainers, it’s up to the state Board of Environmental Protection to figure out how to comply with it. It’s a chance for Maine to set out on a methodical transition away from an economy driven by fossil fuels to one that is far less destructive and, eventually, more affordable.

The board will soon decide whether Maine should adopt some version of California’s clean vehicle emissions standards, which require auto manufacturers to make near-zero or zero-emission vehicles an increasing portion of their new sales.

If the board adopts the proposal before them, auto manufacturers doing business in Maine would have to make sure that 43% of all new passenger vehicles are electric or hybrid in 2027, or face fines. The threshold would raise to 82% by 2032; commercial trucks would be allowed a much more gradual transition.

We suggest that the board go further, and follow California and other states in requiring that 100% of the new passenger vehicles sold by 2035 are low- or zero-emission. It’s the best way to make sure that Maine reaches its climate goals — and that Mainers get the most out of this transition.


If the board decides against the California standards, Maine would be covered under the much-less-strict rules of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not only would the state be less likely to meet its goals, but residents would see far fewer benefits.

According to the Conservation Law Foundation, the proposal as under consideration would deliver a 75% reduction in vehicle emissions and nearly $17 billion in benefits for Maine families and businesses. If the board opts to go for the 100% standard in 2035, it would cut emissions by 89% and add another $4 billion in benefits.

To be clear, even under the most ambitious plan, no one will be forced to get rid of their gas-powered car or truck. New vehicles with internal combustion engines would continue to be sold right up until 2035, and used ones would continue to be available long after that.

And if it turns out there isn’t enough demand to reach sales targets, or if charging stations or the grid aren’t sufficient, the rules could be revised.

Even under the strictest standards, it’s estimated that by 2035, 50% of the passenger vehicles and 85% of the heavy trucks on the road would still use gasoline.

That’s hardly a rapid switch, and it provides plenty of leeway to folks who are worried about giving up their gas-guzzler, or finding an affordable electric vehicle.


And it should be welcome news to the many Mainers who are interested in switching.

Demand for electric vehicles in our state is very high. As of April, the number registered had climbed to more than 10,000, up from just 6,000 in late 2021 — and that’s with many dealerships keeping waitlists because of a lack of supply.

If Maine doesn’t adopt the strictest emissions standards, that supply will get worse as auto manufacturers prioritize states that require EV sales. Vermont, Massachusetts and New York have already adopted California’s standards, and Rhode Island and Connecticut are expected to soon. If Maine doesn’t match them, it will leave consumers here out of luck.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. The costs of electric vehicles have come down tremendously, and are now very competitive over the life of a vehicle, but sticker prices are still high. Maine doesn’t have nearly enough charging stations, and our grid is not yet ready for all the EVs we are going to put on the road over the next decade.

That’s why this plan will work. EVs won’t appear all at once, but over time, allowing Maine to carry out its plan to build charging stations and increase the capacity of the grid.

And it’ll give time for the surge in domestic clean-energy manufacturing, spurred on across the country by unprecedented federal investment, to bring to market the clean, cost-effective vehicles Mainers want — and all of America needs.


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