Public Comment to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Regarding the Colorado Low Emission Vehicle Program

Published September 24, 2018

September 24, 2018

Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Attention: Regulation Number 20
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South
Denver, CO 80246-1530

Re: Regulation Number 20: Colorado Low Emission Vehicle Program (August 24, 2018)

The Heartland Institute is submitting the following comments in response to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s proposed Regulation Number 20, titled “Colorado Low Emissions Vehicles Program.”[i]

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s executive order B 2018 006 directing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a rule to establish the Colorado Low Emissions Vehicle program was little more than a superficial effort to protect Colorado’s environment and public health, providing, at best, few environmental benefits in exchange for massive costs, including many that would be particularly burdensome for low-income Coloradans.[ii] Regulation Number 20 is little better.

While both the executive order and Regulation Number 20 do not direct CDPHE to propose a zero emission vehicle program or to mandate the sale of electric vehicles, they certainly leave open the possibility of also adopting California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards. Much of the case for copying the California model derives from the supposed environmental benefits from electric-powered “plug-in” vehicles.

Based on California’s example, however, it is highly improbable that Colorado could meet the order’s requirements in time. It will be even more difficult to reach the regulation’s goals for Colorado, as a much larger percentage of Coloradans drive trucks than Californians. According to Auto Alliance, 54 percent of registered vehicles in the Centennial State are either pickups, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), or crossover utility vehicles (CUVs).[iii] In California, that number is only 39 percent.[iv] Also, pickups, SUVs, and CUVs make up 68 percent of new car sales in Colorado, while just 46 percent in California.[v]

Unfortunately, this broad-based adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) being pushed by Gov. Hickenlooper will likely only increase pollution and environmental costs, a May 2018 study from the Manhattan Institute concludes.[vi] “Based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),” the study notes, “increased reliance on ZEVs will increase overall emissions of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulates, compared with the same number of new internal combustion vehicles, even after accounting for emissions from petroleum refineries.”[vii]

Furthermore, there is effectively no economic value to the potential carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions of ZEVs. “Although new ZEVs will reduce CO2 emissions compared with new internal combustion vehicles, the overall reduction will be less than 1% of total forecast energy-related U.S. CO2 emissions through 2050,” the study continues.[viii] “That reduction will have no measurable impact on world climate and thus no economic value.”[ix]

“Even if, by 2050, all internal combustion vehicles were replaced by ZEVs,” the study concludes, “the resulting reduction in CO2 emissions would be less than 500 million tons per year. This is less than half the estimated annual impact of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s now-moribund Clean Power Plan, which itself would have had no impact on world climate.”[x]

The exorbitant cost of federal and state subsidies for ZEVs and their charging infrastructure is also highlighted in the study. In California alone, costs are estimated to exceed $100 billion, which will primarily be funded by low-income and middle-class families. Ironically, these families are unlikely to own ZEVs due to their high costs. In the end, mostly wealthy Golden State residents will benefit from the taxpayer subsidies.

A 2013 study from the University of California at Davis found 83 percent of California ZEV owners had household incomes exceeding $100,000, with 46 percent of them earning incomes above $150,000.[xi] The average Tesla owner was found to have a household income of $293,000 that same year.[xii] A more recent study by the Pacific Research Institute found 79 percent of electric vehicle plug-in tax credits were claimed by households with adjusted gross incomes greater than $100,000.[xiii]

Besides, air quality in Colorado and across the United States has already improved greatly over the last three decades. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions in the United States in 2016 were at their lowest level since 1992.[xiv] Per capita CO₂ emissions in 2017 were just 15.8 metric tons per person, the lowest level since 1950.[xv] In Colorado, per capita CO₂ emissions fell by 15.3 percent between 2000 and 2015.[xvi] This trend should continue as newer, cleaner gas-powered automobiles overtake older automobiles.

This regulation could also increase crash fatalities because lightweight cars are less safe than heavier vehicles that produce more CO2 emissions. An analysis by the Brookings Institution found a 500-pound reduction in vehicle weight increased highway fatalities by as many as 3,900 and serious injuries by as many as 19,500 annually, respectively.[xvii] An investigation by USA Today estimated 7,700 fatalities occurred for every mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy. Although downsized and lightweight cars and trucks made to meet these standards would not significantly, or even notably, reduce emissions, they would reduce the safety of and vehicle choices for all Colorado families.

On balance, this proposed regulation is not a good bargain for Coloradans: the questionable, meager environmental gains to be achieved by adopting the California standards are far outweighed by the extraordinary cost to vehicle owners and taxpayers. For these reasons, The Heartland Institute respectfully submits the Air Quality Control Commission should demonstrate its independence by rejecting Gov. Hickenlooper’s costly, regressive proposal and protect Colorado citizens by withdrawing this regulation.

Respectfully Submitted,

Timothy Benson
Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]


[i] Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health, “Regulation 20: Colorado Low Emission Vehicle Program,” August 2018,


[ii] State of Colorado Office of the Governor, “Executive Order B 2018 006: Maintaining Progress on Clean Vehicles,” June 18, 2018,


[iii] Auto Alliance, “State Facts – Colorado,” accessed August 13, 2018,


[iv] Auto Alliance, “State Facts – California,” accessed August 13, 2018,


[v] Supra, note 2 and Ibid.


[vi] Jonathan A. Lesser, Short Circuit: The High Cost of Electric Vehicles Subsidies, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, May 15, 2018,


[vii] Ibid.


[viii] Ibid.


[ix] Ibid.


[x] Ibid.


[xi] Gil Tal, et. al., “Who Is Buying Electric Cars in California? Exploring Household and Vehicle Fleet Characteristics of New Plug-In Vehicle Owners,” Research Report – UCD-ITS-RR-13-02, University of California, Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, February 2013,


[xii] Eric Loveday, “Strategic Vision Says Testosterone is What Sells the Tesla Model S to Wealthy Americans,” InsideEVs, September 6, 2013,


[xiii] Wayne Winegarden, Costly Subsidies for the Rich: Quantifying the Subsidies Offered to Battery Electric Powered Cars, Pacific Research Institute, February 27, 2018,


[xiv] International Energy Agency, “IEA finds CO2 emissions flat for third straight year even as global economy grew in 2016,” March 17, 2017,


[xv] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review (June 2018), June 26, 2018,


[xvi] U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by state (2000, 2005–2015),” January 22, 2018,


[xvii] J.R. Dunn, “Death by CAFE Standards,” American Thinker, April 13, 2010,