A recent article "Minneapolis must learn to love (electric) cars" (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 21) posits three things: electric vehicles (EVs) will save us from climate disaster, Minneapolis is hostile to cars, and the modest increase in allowable building height under the city's 2040 Plan ruins solar generation.
While I found a lot to agree with in the article (banning new natural gas connections, preserving affordable buildings, and installing tons of electric vehicle charging stations), its three main points could not be further from the truth.
A simple look at the carbon emissions from electric vehicles compared to any other low-carbon transportation method shows why it is a no-brainer that EVs are a tool in the tool kit but not the answer.
Walking shoes use much less carbon than an electric train, and electric trains use far less than an EV. EVs are more than four times more polluting than the next most polluting option!
Not only that, but the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) covers 40% of Biden's 50% carbon reduction goal by 2030. Local communities will need to cover the remaining 10%. We can't hold up our end of the bargain by doubling down on what the federal government already did.
Simply put, EVs are not our saviors.
Secondly, Minneapolis is addicted to cars. A simple look at downtown will show you that this city is riddled with parking ramps. Freeways are places where it is illegal and dangerous for non-cars to exist. Much of our city is already cars-only even with the 2040 Plan.
Since the 1940s, Minneapolis has prioritized cars over people, housing and the environment at every turn, except for the 2040 Plan. In conjunction with that plan, the city has left the decision about parking up to developers, homeowners and business owners, aka the private market. When it comes to personal property storage (that's what parking is) the market is the best decider of how much to allocate across the city. The city's role is to provide fast, reliable, low carbon and safe transportation options, not to force homeowners and small businesses to store cars.
We can and should add EV charging stations, but to submit ourselves to cars even further would be a dire mistake for the climate. That is because, in 2021, when every new EV made was sold, there were only 310,000 EVs sold in the entire nation. It is projected that by 2030 there will be 145 million EVs, while the total number of cars in the world today is around 1.42 billion. That means that in 2030, far less than 20% of the world's cars will be EVs. Until well past 2040, car infrastructure will continue to be fossil fuel infrastructure.
Finally, the author says that taller buildings will destroy any incentive for rooftop solar by casting shade on adjacent buildings. This fails to recognize that trees grow. If each person had a right to direct sunlight from over their neighbor's property then we would need permission from our neighbors to have trees (the greatest form of carbon capture).
This also fails to recognize that the percentage of homes that get torn down and replaced with something taller is minuscule. The author references 500 buildings of any type being replaced since 2018 as though those teardowns were random. How many homeowners in Minneapolis have the building just to the south of them in any serious danger of being torn down? The answer is very few proportionally to the number of homes. Not only that but there has been a lot of good news recently in solar developments at a utility scale in Minnesota. Solar production in Minnesota is increasing not decreasing.
The IRA made huge investments in cars and utilities, small investments in buildings and transit, and no investment in walking or biking. The onus is on cities like Minneapolis to invest in the lowest cost and lowest carbon transportation methods — walking and biking. That is the only way that we can address the climate crisis at anywhere near the seriousness and scale that the problem requires.
The mandate for Minneapolis residents is not to get ready for electric vehicles, but rather lace up our boots. We have a climate fight to win.
Soren Stevenson, of Minneapolis, is a housing cooperative developer.