“Californication” of Colorado took a giant step forward Friday when the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission voted unanimously to enact California’s emissions standards. The mandates will apply to new light- and medium-duty cars and trucks beginning with 2022 models.

The commission’s action fulfills an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper in June.

The rules require new vehicles to average 36 miles per gallon, increasing efficiency by about 10 mpg over today’s standards.

Some critics, including many of the state’s car dealers, argue the standards will raise the average cost of vehicles by $2,000 or more. Advocates of the new standards argue buyers will save thousands in fuel costs.

Indeed, owners of economy cars will save money on fuel, and that’s a good thing. Alas, not everyone in Colorado can drive a car that works well for a resident of San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Coloradans drive SUVs and pickups. Car dealers statewide say efforts to push high-efficiency cars have failed, because they don’t fit the Colorado lifestyle.

The new rules will widen a growing cultural and economic divide between urban residents along the Front Range and rural agricultural communities scattered throughout the Eastern Plains and Western Slopes.

“I’m concerned that this (rule approval) simply exacerbates that — that there will be the perception of a bunch of folks in Denver dictating the lives of rural Coloradans,” commission member Curtis Rueter said.

It is not a matter of “perception,” but a matter of fact. Rueter voted for the rules despite his concern.

Although many urban residents use large four-wheel-drive vehicles for recreational excursions into the mountains, farmers, ranchers and miners use trucks for their livelihoods. They cannot tow trailers and implements with miniature battery cars, or drive them down unmaintained rural mountain roads to and from their homes. To achieve the standards, prices of SUVs and pickups will rise substantially and rural residents will get stuck with the costs.

The move also raises concerns of government forcing into the marketplace products consumers don’t much care for, even along the Front Range urban corridor. Hickenlooper acknowledged this in a recent meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board.

“You can go buy a Leaf (Nissan electric car), and when you put in all the incentives you can buy it for about $15 grand. A brand-new car for $14-$15 grand. And they’re still not selling them,” Hickenlooper said. “How can government be the one telling consumers what they should buy?”

Despite raising that good question, the governor continued:

“We can incentivize and motivate people to use fuels and to use vehicles and to live their lives to create less waste and less pollution because it’s better for everyone,” Hickenlooper said.

The commission might not be done making Colorado more like California, despite the obvious practical concerns involving our state’s need for SUVs and trucks. It could soon go a step further and impose a California-style Zero Emission Standard. In doing so, the commission would force dealers and manufacturers to ensure zero-emission cars (mostly battery cars) make up at least 10 percent of sales.

The whole concept is fraudulent to begin with, as no car with an engine causes zero emissions. Battery cars get their energy from power plants, most of which emit pollutants produced by coal or natural gas.

Hikenlooper assures us he does not want a zero emissions mandate.

“The car dealers tell us 75 percent of their sales are SUVs,” Hickenlooper said. “SUVs are heavy. The battery technology doesn’t exist yet. The electric vehicle people say ‘oh, no, but it’s coming. It will be there.’ Well, they’ve promised that a million times, and maybe it will be there. Then we can look at accelerating standards.”

No rational resident of Colorado or any other place wants poor air quality. Technology consistently improves to meet consumer demands to improve the environment.

Colorado consumers should make reasonable lifestyle adjustments toward better air quality. That doesn’t mean we should embrace overreaching government mandates. If no mandate goes too far, we could achieve the best results by outlawing cars.

The commission’s new mandates don’t suit the practical needs of Colorado. Waves of migrants from other states have not flattened our rugged terrain, tamed our climate, or turned farmers and ranchers into urbanites who drive on maintained roads.

The demands of buyers, combined with innovation, can and will improve our air without oppressive mandates that only make Colorado a more difficult place for households on low and middle incomes. They sky is not falling, so let’s slow down.

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