Biden adopts new vehicle emissions rules favored by automakers and unions

The Biden administration has announced new auto standards aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2032, while also allowing automakers to reach their targets at a slower pace than originally proposed.

The new standards were not as strict as the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal last year, which would have required automakers to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2032. Car companies and the car union opposed the plan, citing recent developments. the slower sales growth of electric vehicles and the popularity of some hybrid vehicles as evidence that customers were still not ready to make the full switch to fully electric vehicles.

The new standards were not as stringent as the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal last year

The EPA suggested that the auto industry could meet the requirements under the stricter rules if 67 percent of new vehicles sold were electric vehicles by 2032. Instead, the Biden administration’s standards would delay implementation from 2027 to 2029, but then ramp up to meet the levels. the EPA’s preference from 2030 to 2032.

“Today we are setting new pollution standards for cars and trucks,” President Biden said in a statement. “American workers will lead the world in vehicles creating clean cars and trucks, each stamped ‘Made in America.’ You have my word.”

The emissions rules set performance standards based on grams of greenhouse gases per kilometer, but do not require automakers to sell electric vehicles. In fact, government officials emphasized that the standards were “technologically neutral,” acknowledging that hybrid vehicles will also help achieve the goals. Still, a steeper reduction in emissions would essentially force the auto industry to sell more electric vehicles to meet standards.

“I think what you see in the final rule is greater flexibility that still delivers enormous gains for public health and the environment,” said Ali Zaidi, the White House climate adviser. The edge.

Under the final rules, light-duty vehicles (passenger cars such as sedans, SUVs and trucks) would have to achieve an industry-wide target of 85 grams of greenhouse gases (GHG) per kilometer by 2032, up from 170 grams per kilometer. miles by 2027. For medium-duty vehicles (large trucks and vans), the EPA mandates a 44 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 274 grams/mile by 2032, compared to 461 grams/mile by 2027.

The EPA says the new standards will result in a reduction of 7.2 billion metric tons of harmful carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the program and approximately $13 billion in health benefits.

“For the person who thinks, ‘Gosh, is my country doing what it needs to do to act and lead by example in this moment of crisis?’” Zaidi said. “The answer is yes.”

But environmental groups have warned that more aggressive action is needed to tackle climate change. The transportation sector, which includes private vehicles, is responsible for more than a quarter of all global warming emissions entering the atmosphere worldwide. Ahead of the announcement, climate activists urged the White House to reject the auto industry’s push for slower implementation and adopt the stricter standards.

The planet has warmed by about 1.2 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and that’s enough to cause more extreme weather, intensify wildfires and raise sea levels high enough to drive coastal communities from their homes. To prevent these types of disasters from becoming much worse, the Paris Agreement aims to limit warming to about 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But the slowdown in EV sales growth proved to be more influential, as did the United Auto Workers lobby, which recently supported President Biden’s bid for re-election. Sales of electric vehicles grew by 47 percent in 2023 to almost 8 percent of all vehicles sold. But that growth slowed in the final months of the year and into 2024, as high prices and charging concerns drove some customers away. Meanwhile, sales of hybrid vehicles grew faster than battery-electric vehicles.

Delaying the timeline “was the right decision,” John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the industry’s top lobbying group, said in a statement. “These adjusted EV targets – still an ambitious target – should give the market and supply chains the opportunity to catch up.”

The administration hopes these emissions rules, combined with financial incentives included in the Inflation Reduction Act, the president’s signature climate initiative, will help pave the way for greater adoption of electric vehicles.

Political wrangling over emissions rules has been intense over the past administrations. After being elected in 2016, Donald Trump rolled back Barack Obama’s emissions standards, making it easier for automakers to produce polluting cars. But Biden reversed the rollback shortly after taking office.

For the Biden administration, these rules are a central pillar of the president’s climate goals. Immediately after taking office, Biden signed an executive order outlining his vision that half of all new car sales should be zero-emission by 2030.

But there have also been delays. The EPA recently said it would not finalize rules on emissions from gas-fired power plants in the US until after the November election, heralding a scenario in which the rules remain unchanged if Biden loses his re-election bid to Donald Trump.

During his campaign, Trump has focused on electric vehicles as a potential problem, portraying them as expensive, difficult to charge and unpopular with most Americans. But the White House insists the new standards will ensure consumers still have choices when selecting a new vehicle.

“The bottom line is this shows that leadership matters,” Zaidi said. “President Biden has prioritized public health, he has prioritized environmental protection, he has prioritized tackling the climate crisis, and he has prioritized consumer savings.”

Update March 20 11:47 am ET: Updated with a statement from the auto industry’s top lobbyist.

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