Climate change has taken center stage in the American mind, influencing not only our politics but also our consumer choices. A recent report outlines how rapidly consumer demand for green products has increased. In 2021, 58% of consumers reported that they would spend more for green products, but today that number has shot up to 90% for Gen X consumers even higher for Millennial and Gen Z consumers.
Just last year, electric vehicle (EV) sales jumped 70%, but this increased demand has hit a wall: supply shortages. For America and North Carolina to meet this growing demand, we will need a major overhaul of existing regulations that will make it easier to supply these green products.
Federal and state governments have been spending big dollars to build out the infrastructure for green products. The Biden administration is promising 500,000 new EV charging stations across the nation and tax credits for families with EVs. Gov. Roy Cooper has put mandates on manufacturers of trucks, vans, and buses to shift their production to EVs.
But the large checks being doled out by the government mean very little in a country that cannot build anything. Instead, we must clear the way for the private sector to meet consumer demands by updating permitting requirements at the federal, state, and local levels.
Right now, clean energy innovators, new electric-grid transmission lines, new lithium mines, and clean energy production are all being stalled by a complex web of state, federal, and local regulations. New energy projects are subject to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), a burdensome regulation holding back thousands of new energy projects, 42% of which are renewables.
Last summer, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia attempted to strike a deal that would reform America’s permitting requirements for new energy projects. These reforms would make producing abundant clean energy possible. Unfortunately, his repeated attempts to implement these reforms have failed due to Democrat backlash. Despite having the Biden administration superficial support, little progress has been made.
Green companies face serious obstacles at the state and local levels too. North Carolina has become a key player on these issues. Piedmont Lithium’s proposed lithium mine in Gaston County would make the U.S. competitive with China in lithium mining and make it easier for electric vehicle producers to build here at home. The project is incredibly promising, including interest from the EV giant, Tesla.
Despite its promise, the project has faced an uphill battle from state regulators. The project is being stalled by a concoction of local zoning regulations, environmental impact study requirements, and state air and water permitting requirements. At this rate, they are not expected to go live until 2026, but EV adoption has already been rapidly increasing. We need these mines now, not at an indefinite time in the future.
Other EV projects are on the horizon for N.C., including a new EV battery plant from Toyota and the VinFast EV plant. These development projects are envelope pushing, running on renewables and bringing cutting-edge technology to N.C. If N.C. can successfully attract and build these plants, it would place our state at the forefront of climate-change solutions. This can only be accomplished by making it easier for innovators like VinFast to build new factories, which will require an overhaul of our burdensome regulatory state.
As EVs become more popular, we need a market environment that can nimbly respond to consumer demands. The complex web of environmental impact studies, permitting requirements, and zoning rules are a serious hindrance to actually addressing these needs. North Carolina could stand out among states by making it easier to build clean-energy projects here at home, bucking the national and state-level trends of heavy handed government regulation.