The Biden administration released updated proposals for the mileage and emission standards to be imposed on passenger vehicles sold inside the United States this week. To the great shock of nobody, they move the country away from the targets established by the Trump administration so the nation can be brought back toward stringent Obama-era goals those later changes sought to get away from.
Though it’s not quite a return to form and environmentalists have already accused the plan of being insufficient — a take that’s as easy to predict as a sunrise. The Environmental Protection Agency would be technically setting rules that put us a year or so behind targets instituted during the Obama administration. But that’s largely understandable when that regime didn’t spend the last four years inside the White House. Besides, the Biden administration’s EPA has already confirmed it’s pushing for even tougher restrictions after 2026.
The proposed standards now mandate a fleet-wide vehicle mileage of 52 mpg by 2026, moving up from this year’s limit of 40 mpg. In the interim, the EPA suggested that the updated proposals would result in a 10 percent reduction of national vehicle emissions by 2023 with every successive year until 2026.
Automotive News quoted the Department of Transportation as claiming new rules would increase fuel efficiency by 8 percent annually for vehicles MY 2024-2026 and estimated a fleet-wide average increase of 12 mpg by model year 2026.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg claimed the changes would help address the climate crisis, improve air quality, and save drivers “hundreds of billions of dollars on gas.”
“By giving American car manufacturers a clear path forward, we will ensure that more of those clean vehicles, and jobs, are created right here,” he said of the proposal.
Except automakers don’t have a clear pathway forward and these targets will undoubtedly change (yet again) to become something more lax and flexible the second the United States has another conservative government. At this moment the EPA is currently spitballing restrictions for heavy-duty vehicles after 2026. But those will be utterly meaningless if the Biden-Harris ticket fails in 2024 and the successive administration decides to change course.
Meanwhile, the latest from the EPA is being criticized by environmentalists as lackluster. Despite introducing regulations aimed at limited emissions and setting aside billions in infrastructure plans specifically to encourage the proliferation of electric vehicles, many are chiding the Biden administration for not going far enough.
Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said the proposed EPA standards would still fall short of the goals set by Obama.
“I don’t feel comfortable that those percentage numbers accurately reflect what the proposal does,” Becker said.
While the proposed Biden EPA rule reaches a projected industry target of 171 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, the Obama rule would have achieved a standard of 163 grams of carbon dioxide per mile a year earlier, Becker said.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has also expressed concerns, with senior analysts David Cooke claiming it was better than anyone anticipated but “still not where we need to be.”
“There are still plenty of loopholes and flexibilities that undermine what could be a very strong rule,” Cooke elaborated.
But the EPA seems happy with the direction things are heading and praised itself in a statement announcing the updated emission proposals. It also briefly mentioned its future goals regarding emissions limitations pertaining to heavy commercial vehicles.
“Today, EPA takes a major step forward in delivering on President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis and create good paying, union jobs,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “These robust standards are underpinned by sound science and technical expertise, encouraging the development of technology and innovation that will drive America forward into a clean energy future. We are excited about building on the partnerships with states, cities, industry, labor, and NGO stakeholders to realize this vision together.”
“Pollution from trucks has been a long-standing obstacle to advancing environmental justice, as many low-income and minority communities live near highways or in heavily polluted areas with frequent truck congestion and idling,” Regan continued. “EPA is committed to walking our talk and delivering tangible benefits to historically underserved and overburdened communities. Setting clear and stringent standards for truck pollution is critical to delivering on this commitment.”
If you’d like to give the EPA a piece of your mind or give it the thumbs up, the organization is taking public comments on the light-vehicle proposal until the end of September.
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