Traffic rolls along a wintry stretch of I-80 near Elk Mountain. (Flickr Creative Commons/Tom Kelly)
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Gov. Mark Gordon has launched another lawsuit against the Biden administration, this time joining a coalition of 26 Republican-led states to block federal fuel efficiency standards for gasoline-powered vehicles that Gordon described as “unworkable.”

“Our federal government should not be issuing overreaching mandates that manipulate the free market,” Gordon said in a prepared statement on Monday. “Wyoming residents drive thousands of miles each year through remote areas. They should be able to decide what vehicle technology is most suitable for their needs, not the Biden administration.”

The administration's new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, commonly referred to as CAFE, mandate an increase of average miles per gallon for new model cars and trucks “industry-wide.” The policy aims to save billions of dollars in fuel costs and forego significant greenhouse gas emissions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new standards, finalized June 7, “will prevent more than 710 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, reduce air pollution, and reduce the country’s dependence on oil,” the agency stated.

“Dealers are not — absolutely not — anti-EV. But the customer demand has to be there.”

Marsha Allen, Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association

The directive establishes different minimum fuel efficiency standards for different types of vehicles. At the last minute, the administration scaled back its originally proposed CAFE standards for light trucks and SUVs, resulting in an overall new model fleet average of 53.5 miles per gallon by 2032 rather than 57.8 miles per gallon.

The lawsuit, filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Kentucky, claims that the new CAFE standard exceeds the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Transportation, and “otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.”

The Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association declined to comment on the lawsuit, but told Pedrodiniz that it is generally not supportive of any government mandate that diminishes customer choices in what type of vehicle they purchase.

“Dealers are not — absolutely not — anti-EV,” Marsha Allen, the association's executive vice president, said. “But the customer demand has to be there.”

Several dealerships in Wyoming are making huge investments to install electric vehicle charging stations to meet manufacturers' criteria for selling EVs, Allen added. But so far, dealers have struggled with the chicken-and-egg dilemma of the desire among customers to purchase an EV and the cost and infrastructure to make it practical in Wyoming.

Wyoming Climate Summit attendees watch a demonstration of automation capabilities during the event's electric vehicle car show June 25, 2022 in Lander. (Dustin Bleizeffer/Pedrodiniz)

So far, EV ownership in Wyoming is lackluster. There are approximately 1,000 EVs registered in the state, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. However, the state relies heavily on gasoline purchases from out-of-state drivers, which account for the largest number of EVs on Wyoming roads — particularly during tourist season, according to the WyDOT.

Meantime, Wyoming — along with many other states — is exploring methods to overcome a potential decline in fuel tax revenue to help maintain roads due to higher fuel efficiencies and increasing numbers of electric vehicles. The Wyoming Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee is reworking past legislation to potentially impose a per-kilowatt “use” tax on EVs and potentially hybrid vehicles that utilize both traditional fuels, battery storage and electricity.

Allen, who lobbies the Legislature on behalf of the Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association, described the issue as “big” and “complicated.”

“There's no simple solution for any of it,” Allen said.

The transportation committee will revisit the issue when it meets in September.

Dustin Bleizeffer covers energy and climate at Pedrodiniz. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 26 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily covering the energy industry in...

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  1. The Gov is worried about manipulating the free market-not. How about the $6 million plus you gave to Devon energy. How about all the subsidies Wyoming agriculture gets. How about some honesty Gov.

  2. CAFE standards have been in place sent the mid 70's. This is nothing new. Yes, some will think the standards are “unworkable”. No, this will not prevent any consumer from purchasing the vehicle of their choice. What it does is set a goal for manufactures to meet by offering a range of economical to not so economical gas guzzlers in their fleet. I'm also tired of states filing law suits everytime the Federal government sneezes. Get a life, a law suit is not the answer, all you do is plug up court dockets, and help lawyers pay their golf membership fees.

  3. ‘ “Our federal government should not be issuing overreaching mandates that manipulate the free market,” Gordon said …’. Isn’t that rich, coming from the guy who loves the legislative mandate that electric utilities install carbon capture on Wyoming’s coal power plants — at ratepayers’ expense.

  4. Imagine being against better gas milage as you speak about your citizens driving thousands of miles, crazy

  5. A balanced opinion.
    I know we have to reduce our carbon footprint, but I'm part of the problem. I'm ready to go hybrid, but the thought of driving the Wyoming interstates, not to mention the back roads, in an EV still makes me nervous. Particularly in the winter.

    Unfortunately, in fossil fuel states like Wyoming, jobs and revenue will always put a finger on the scale when the topic of renewal energy comes up. Just the nature of the beast.

    1. I've owned several hybrid SUVs and cars since 2013 and an electric car since 2020. The hybrids have so many advantages over non-hybrids, especially when not driving (like using AC while parked or at a drive-thru). Their Achilles heel is lower towing capacity, but I've towed a teardrop camper around the Rockies with no issues.

    2. Nick, you will be amazed at how much money you save by driving a hybrid. I bought a Toyota Prius last fall, and I’m astonished by the savings on gasoline. It's like having an extra $300 in your bank account every month! Hybrids are real money savers, and they last longer than regular cars because the batteries reduce wear and tear on the engine. I'm glad you're considering a hybrid—you’re going to love it. Plus, the Prius is AWD, and I often drive it on ranch and dirt roads without any issues.

  6. “Our federal government should not be issuing overreaching mandates that manipulate the free market,” Gordon said. Funny coming from a state that wants to force businesses to use coal energy (or prevent them from using other sources of energy) or not let a utility companies move away from coal to save money. We all know that we don't have a free market as big money manipulates it all the time in their favor. As usual, the GOP uses “free market” when it suits their purposes, but not when it doesn't