Biden is considering delaying the shift to electric vehicles in auto rules

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering relaxing one of its key climate change rules — tailpipe emissions limits for cars and trucks — by giving automakers more time to boost sales of electric vehicles, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Rather than mandating a rapid increase in electric vehicle (EV) sales in the coming years, the agency could delay those requirements until after 2030, the two people said. The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decision has been made; the rule won’t become final until March at the earliest.

The move comes as the Biden administration faces pressure on multiple fronts to weaken its electrification goals, partly due to slowing electric vehicle sales and also problems with public EV charging stations.

The New York Times first reported that the EPA is considering such a change, which would represent a major election-year concession to automakers and unions. It comes as President Biden walks a political tightrope balancing two high-profile priorities: fighting climate change and standing up for labor rights.

During a controversial strike in the fall, the United Auto Workers sounded the alarm that a rapid shift to electric vehicles could come at the expense of good-paying jobs. The union is wary of electric cars because they generally require fewer workers to assemble them than gasoline-powered cars, and because many electric cars are built in southern states that are less friendly to unions.

In April, the EPA issued a proposed rule calling for electric vehicles to account for 67 percent of all new passenger car and light truck sales by 2032. Weeks later, UAW President Shawn Fain wrote that the union was withholding approval of Biden’s reelection. campaign on “concerns about the transition to electric vehicles.”

In January, the EPA sent the final rule to the White House for interagency review. Shortly thereafter, the UAW endorsed Biden at its annual legislative conference in Washington.

Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has since called Fain a “dope” on his social media site Truth Social. Trump has also falsely claimed that electric cars cannot travel far on a single charge, and he has called for the elimination of EV tax credits in Biden’s signature climate bill.

America has passed the electric car “tipping point,” but many buyers still want gasoline

UAW spokesman Jonah Furman declined to comment for this article. EPA spokesman Timothy Carroll declined to comment on the specifics of the rule as it undergoes interagency review. But overall, Carroll said in an email, “EPA is committed to finalizing a technology standard that is easily achievable, ensures reductions in hazardous air and climate pollution, and ensures economic benefits for families.”

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, urged the EPA not to delay the timeline for the transition to electric vehicles. He noted that gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks are one of the largest sources of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“It will mean more pollution, more sick children, more global warming and more oil use,” Becker said in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Still, delaying EV requirements in 2055 would still deliver roughly the same emissions reductions as the original proposal, according to a third person familiar with the matter, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity.

While sales of electric vehicles have continued to rise in the United States, automakers say growth has slowed in recent months, prompting them to suspend some investments. Tesla, whose non-union workforce, dominates US EV sales. Detroit’s automakers lag far behind the unions, with electric cars accounting for just 4 percent of Ford’s total sales and 3 percent of General Motors’ total sales.

The availability of functioning charging stations is a problem, both for car manufacturers and for many consumers. Although many EV drivers charge their cars at home, EV advocates have complained about a lack of functioning public charging stations across the country. Even in California, a hotbed of EV adoption, only 72.5 percent of all public fast chargers in the San Francisco Bay Area were operational as of early 2022, according to a study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

This is the biggest hurdle facing the American EV revolution

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, has argued that the EPA regulations are too ambitious in light of the slowdown in electric vehicle sales. The alliance – which represents GM, Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai and others – said the rule could expose automakers to fines of more than $14 billion if they fail to meet carbon emissions reduction targets.

In a statement, John Bozzella, the alliance’s president and CEO, said the nation must pace its transition to electric vehicles. He was referring to Biden’s signature climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides funding for electric vehicle development.

“Give the market and supply chains a chance to catch up, make sure customers have choice, let more public fees come online, let the Industrial Credits and the Inflation Reduction Act do their thing and influence the industrial shift,” he said .

Tesla, on the other hand, has urged the agency to strengthen the proposed rule. In public comments, Tesla called for the rule to bring electric vehicles to 69 percent of the market share by 2032 and to 100 percent by 2035.

The EPA sets tailpipe emissions limits in consultation with the Transportation Department and California officials, who have the authority under the Clean Air Act to issue pollution regulations stricter than those of the federal government. The California Air Resources Board wants to ban the sale of new cars that run exclusively on gasoline by 2035. In the past, more than a dozen other states have chosen to follow the Golden State’s stricter standards.

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