Biden administration announces rules aimed at phasing out gas cars

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The Biden administration on Wednesday issued one of the most significant climate rules in the country’s history, a rule designed to ensure that most new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States will be completely green by 2032. Will be electric or hybrid.

Nearly three years in the making, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new tailpipe pollution limits will change the American automobile market. A record 1.2 million electric vehicles passed through dealers last year, but they made up only 7.6 percent of total U.S. car sales, far from the 56 percent target under the new regulation. An additional 16 percent of new cars sold will be hybrids.

Cars and other forms of transportation are the largest single source of carbon emissions produced by the United States, pollution that is exacerbating climate change and which helped make 2023 the hottest year in recorded history. Electric vehicles are central to President Biden’s strategy to combat global warming, which calls for cutting the nation’s emissions in half by the end of the decade. But EVs have also become politicized and are becoming an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign.

“Three years ago, I set an ambitious goal: Half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 will be zero-emissions,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “Together, we have made historic progress. Hundreds of newly expanded factories across the country. Hundreds of billions of private investments and thousands of good-paying union jobs. And we will meet our target for 2030 and run ahead in the years to come.

The rule sharply limits the amount of tailpipe pollution over time, so that by 2032, more than half of new cars sold in the United States will be zero-emission vehicles requiring carmakers to meet standards .

According to the EPA, this would avoid more than seven billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to removing one year’s worth of all the greenhouse gases produced by the United States, the country that has historically emitted the most carbon. dioxide in the atmosphere. According to the agency, the regulation would provide an annual net benefit to society of approximately $100 billion, including an annual public health benefit of $13 billion due to improved air quality.

The EPA estimates that the standards will save the average American driver approximately $6,000 in reduced fuel and maintenance over the lifetime of a vehicle.

The transition to electric vehicles will require huge changes in manufacturing, infrastructure, technology, labor, global trade, and consumer habits.

And this has become politically fraught. Former President Donald J. Trump, who is campaigning to retake the White House from Mr Biden in November, has sought to weaponize electric vehicles, repeating false claims about their performance and affordability during campaign rallies and increasingly heated rhetoric. Have used. Recently, he warned of a “blood bath” amid comments about electric vehicles.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a lobbying organization, has launched a “seven points” campaign of ads, phone calls and text messages against “Biden’s EPA car ban” in swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan. In the Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona, as well as Ohio, Montana and Washington, DC, markets.

EPA regulation has no restrictions. It does not mandate the sale of electric vehicles, and gas-powered cars and trucks can still be sold. Rather, it requires carmakers to meet tough new average emissions limits across their entire product line. It is up to the manufacturers to comply with this.

Under the Clean Air Act, the agency can limit pollution generated by the total number of cars sold each year. EPA officials said automakers can comply with emissions limits by selling a mix of traditional gasoline-burning cars, hybrids, electric vehicles or other types of vehicles, such as cars powered by hydrogen. The new regulation, which will not apply to the sale of used automobiles or light trucks, will take effect through model year 2027.

Car companies that flout the new restrictions could face heavy fines.

John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents 42 car companies that produce nearly all new vehicles sold in the United States, said in a statement that the new rule was “a stretch goal” but that some Offered flexibility. “The rules take into account the importance of drivers’ choice and preserve their ability to choose the vehicle that is right for them,” he said.

But the rules are expected to face an immediate legal challenge by a coalition of fossil fuel companies and Republican attorneys general, complaints that could reach the Supreme Court.

Elizabeth Murrill, Attorney General of Louisiana, a major oil and gas producing state, said, “They probably want us to all drive EVs or not drive cars at all, but at the end of the day that’s not their decision.” Biden says in a series of lawsuits challenging the EPA “There are limits to his authority to remake society in his vision and the court realizes that.”

The auto emissions rule is the most impactful of the Biden administration’s four major climate rules, which also include restrictions on emissions from power plants, trucks and methane leaks from oil and gas wells. These rules come on top of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the largest climate legislation in the country’s history, which is providing at least $370 billion in federal incentives to support clean energy, including tax credits to buyers of electric vehicles. Is.

These policies are aimed at helping the country meet Mr Biden’s goal of halving US greenhouse emissions by 2030 and eliminating them by 2050. Climate scientists say all major economies must do the same if the world is to avoid the most deadly and costly impacts. Of climate change.

“We see these standards as a historic climate grand slam for the Biden administration,” said Manish Bapna, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, a political action committee that aims to advance environmental causes.

Mr. Bapna’s group has calculated that, combined with the Inflation Reduction Act, the four rules would reduce the country’s greenhouse emissions by 42 percent by 2030, helping the country reach Mr. Biden’s 2030 goal.

Mr Trump has promised to remove those climate programs when he returns to the White House.

The Biden administration is rushing to finalize climate rules to protect against the looming threat in a polarized political environment: By law, unless the rules are published more than 60 legislative days before the end of the president’s term, they Cannot be terminated. By simple majority in Congress.

When writing the final tailpipe regulation, the administration relaxed some elements in a concession to car manufacturers and their largest union, the United Auto Workers.

Even though major auto companies are making substantial investments in manufacturing and marketing all-electric vehicles, they have complained that the pace of change was much faster than required under the rule originally proposed a year ago.

Unionized auto workers, who fear a rapid shift to electric vehicles because they have fewer parts that require fewer workers to produce, and because many new EV plants are being built in states that do not support union labor. Do, he told the same thing to the White House. ,

In a statement Wednesday, the United Auto Workers said the EPA “has gone a long way toward creating more viable emissions rules” that will protect workers who build gas-powered cars, while protecting carmakers. This will pave the way for “implementing the full range”. “The use of automotive technologies to reduce emissions.”

Mr. Biden needs both cooperation from the auto industry and political support from unionized auto workers who supported him in 2020. The auto industry employs thousands of voters in Michigan, a swing state that could determine who wins the White House in November.

In response, the final EPA rule relaxed the pace at which automakers must comply with the rule in its early years, with a steep increase only after 2030.

This will reduce the number of EVs that automakers have to sell before 2030, and also means emissions will gradually reduce. Climate scientists warn that emissions must fall sharply and rapidly to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

EPA officials said the final rule would still cut emissions by the same amount over 30 years.

Asked about that agreement, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the changes were designed to make for a “stronger, more durable” policy, in other words, it would be less likely to be rolled back by a future administration. Or the courts. “We’re not sacrificing the environmental benefits we want to see,” he said.

Even if the new EPA limits survive legal challenges, the move away from internal combustion engines depends on many other factors.

The lack of public charging stations for electric vehicles remains a problem. While more than 172,000 were installed last year, analysts estimate the country will need more than two million chargers by 2030 to support the increase in electric vehicles envisioned by EPA regulation.

At the same time, growth in sales of electric vehicles is slowing, even though the new rules would require a nearly tenfold increase in such sales within just eight years. Buyers of new electric vehicles are eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, but only 18 models are currently eligible for that full credit, down from about two dozen last year. One of those eligible models, the Ford F-150 Lightning, an all-electric pickup truck that once had a waiting list of 200,000, saw sales of 24,000 last year, far short of the 150,000 sales Ford had projected.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be up to the consumer,” said Stephanie Brinley, an auto intelligence services analyst at S&P Global Mobility. “They are being asked to change their patterns in what they drive, what they buy, how they interact with their vehicles. And you can’t push them faster than they’re going to go.”

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