Biden Admin To Strengthen Vehicle Mileage Standards

Yesterday, several news outlets reported that the Biden administration will soon propose a return to aggressive Obama-era vehicle mileage standards over five years, after which rules would tighten to encourage 40% of U.S. drivers into electric vehicles by 2030.

As the Post and Courrier reported,

  • The proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are expected to be released as early as next week, according to four industry and government officials who have been briefed on the plan.
  • They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the standards haven’t been finalized. But administration officials have been discussing the numbers with the auto industry.

Why This Matters: Transportation is the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with cars and light-duty trucks (including pickups and SUVs) responsible for about 59% of those emissions. Increasing fuel efficiency standards means that vehicles use less gas (saving their owners money), emit fewer emissions, and help us meet our collective emissions reductions goals.

Accelerating the transition to EVs is a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s goals to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030.

Moreover, Americans vehemently support the government playing a role in setting more ambitious fuel economy standards.

What This Will Likely Mean: The potential new Biden rules would begin applying to the 2023 car model year and start by requiring California’s 2019 framework agreement on emissions standards reached between Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo.

The requirements would then ramp up in 2025 to Obama-era levels of a 5% annual increase in the mileage standard and a similar cut in emissions. They will go higher still for model year 2026, potentially in the range of 6% or 7%.

A Brief History: As the Union of Concerned Scientists explained,

Congress first established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in 1975, largely in response to the 1973 oil embargo. CAFE standards set the average new vehicle fuel economy, as weighted by sales, that a manufacturer’s fleet must achieve.

Then, under the Obama Administration, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alongside the automakers themselves, set new guidelines requiring auto manufacturers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles to a level that would raise the average fuel economy across their fleet of cars and trucks to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025.

In early 2020, the Trump administration gutted these standards despite being urged by automakers like Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, and Volvo to reconsider.

The Reaction: As Peter Zalzal, the Environmental Defense Fund’s senior counsel and Associate Vice President for Clean Air Strategies said,

“If news reports are correct, our nation must do more than focus on the Trump rollbacks alone to swiftly eliminate tailpipe pollution from new passenger vehicles, because that focus alone will not be enough to address the clear and present danger of climate change and the pollution that puts the health of our communities at risk.

We need to eliminate the tailpipe pollution from new passenger vehicles by 2035 if we hope to curb climate change based on science and help ensure livable communities. GM has announced its goal to eliminate tailpipe pollution from new passenger vehicles by 2035 and Volkswagen has recently announced that it plans for 50 percent of all new vehicles it sells by 2030 to be zero-emitting. These zero-emitting solutions are at hand and they can be made in America – creating high quality jobs, saving families money at the gas pump, and helping to ensure healthier longer lives for all.”


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