In late December, Oregon officials approved regulations that would ban the sale of all new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in the state by 2035 in favor of electric vehicles and other multimodal forms of transportation, joining states like California looking to ban the proliferation of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Two states away in Wyoming, Republican lawmakers are looking to go in a decidedly different direction, pushing legislation that would ban the sale of all new electric vehicles in what lawmakers are calling an effort to preserve the state’s fossil fuel industry.
Sponsored by Casper Republican Senator Jim Anderson with the support of several top Republican legislators, the resolution proposes to phase out the sale of all new electric vehicle sales in the state by 2035 to help maintain the fossil fuel jobs that underpin the state’s economy.
Anderson told Newsweek that his resolution was intended to be a direct response to California and Oregon’s recent legislation, writing, “We need to support our industries.”
“The proliferation of electric vehicles at the expense of gas-powered vehicles will have deleterious impacts on Wyoming’s communities and will be detrimental to Wyoming’s economy and the ability for the country to efficiently engage in commerce,” the resolution reads.
“Phasing out the sale of new electric vehicles in Wyoming by 2035 will ensure the stability of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry and will help preserve the country’s critical minerals for vital purposes.”
Legislation like Anderson’s to protect the fossil fuel industry have been a constant in the halls of the Wyoming statehouse since the decline of the state’s coal industry began in earnest amid the shutdown of coal-fired power plants around the country.
With a relatively small tax base, revenues from sources like coal, natural gas and oil make up the bulk of the state budget every year, while underperformance in the fossil sector can often have calamitous effects on the budget. Research shows that per capita, Wyoming relies more on fossil fuels than any other state, making up nearly 59 percent of its annual revenue.
That dynamic is a double-edged sword, however. In October, the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group projected that the state’s annual revenues were on pace to exceed its January estimates by $329.4 million largely due to overperformance in the oil and gas sector.
However, the revenues are highly volatile, and have been in steady decline since heights reached in the late-2000s. At one point during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wyoming had zero oil rigs operating for the first time in its history, sparking panic over a looming $1.5 billion hole in the operating budget.
In response, lawmakers have passed a number of bills intended to offset actions in other states intended to cut down on fossil fuels, including a controversial carbon capture mandate on coal-fired power plants as well as a $200 fee on electric vehicles passed in 2019. Other proposals have included myriad tax cuts for the coal and fossil fuel industry intended to help the state’s industries remain competitive with fuels imported from overseas.
In the resolution, Anderson argues that the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country will require massive amounts of new power generation in order to sustain what it describes as the “misadventure of electric vehicles.” Fossil fuels, he said, will be necessary to support the industry.
“The United States has consistently invested in the oil and gas industry to sustain gas-powered vehicles, and that investment has resulted in the continued employment of thousands of people in the oil and gas industry in Wyoming and throughout the country,” the resolution reads.
“Fossil fuels, including oil and petroleum products, will continue to be vital for transporting goods and people across Wyoming and the United States for years to come.”
Wyoming is a relative pioneer in the electric vehicle space. Lusk became one of the smallest towns to ever receive one of Tesla‘s famed “Superchargers,” while the Wyoming Department of Transportation last year announced a multimillion-dollar effort to “electrify” the state’s highways, according to the news site WyoFile.
However, some lawmakers feel that the resolution, even if it doesn’t pass, could mean more than simply sending a message, particularly given recent trends in the Republican-dominated statehouse.
“I think it does give the conversation momentum,” Laramie Democrat Chris Rothfuss told Newsweek.