WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday will propose the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations yet, two plans designed to ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy-duty trucks sold in the United States are electric by 2032.
If the two rules are enacted as proposed, they would put the world’s largest economy on track to reduce greenhouse emissions at the pace that scientists say is required of all nations in order to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.
The new rules will require nothing less than a revolution in the American auto industry. Last year, all-electric vehicles accounted for just 5.8 percent of new car sales in the United States and less than 2 percent of new heavy-duty truck sales.
“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, secure deep reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensure significant economic benefits such as reduced fuel and maintenance,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Reagan said in a statement. .
The EPA cannot require automakers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles. But under the Clean Air Act, the agency can reduce pollution from the total number of cars each manufacturer sells. The agency can set this limit so tightly that the only way manufacturers can comply is by selling a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles.
The proposed tailpipe pollution limits for automobiles, first reported by The New York Times on Saturday, are designed to ensure that by 2032 67 percent of sales of new light-duty passenger cars, from sedans to pickup trucks, will be all-electric. 46 percent of new midsize truck sales, such as delivery vans, will be all-electric or some other form of zero-emissions technology by the same year, according to the plan.
The EPA has also proposed a companion rule governing heavy vehicles, designed so that half of all new buses and 25 percent of new heavy trucks sold will be fully electric by 2032.
Combined, the two bases would remove the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions generated over two years by all sectors of the economy in the United States, the second-biggest polluter on the planet after China.
But some auto workers and manufacturers fear that the transition to all-electric vehicles envisioned by the Biden administration is going too far, too quickly, and could lead to job losses and lower profits.
Major automakers have mostly invested heavily in electrification. However, many customer demand fears the more expensive all-electric models; The supply of batteries and the speed with which a national network of charging stations can be established.
Auto workers fear job losses, because electric cars require less than half as many workers to assemble as cars with internal combustion engines.
Automakers and union workers have voiced these concerns directly to the president since 2021, when Biden announced an executive order directing government policies to ensure that 50 percent of all new passenger car sales are all-electric by 2030.
When word began spreading last week that its new regulations were designed to go further, some automakers pushed back.
John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents major U.S. and foreign automakers, questioned how the EPA could justify “going beyond the carefully considered, data-driven goal the administration announced in the executive order.”
“Yes, America’s transition to an electric, low-carbon transportation future is well underway,” Bozella said in a statement. “Manufacturing of battery and electric vehicles is on the rise across the country because automakers are self-financing billions to expand the electrification of vehicles. It is also true that the EPA’s proposed emissions plan is robust by all accounts.”
“Remember this: there is a lot that needs to be done right for this massive – and unprecedented – change to our automotive market and industrial base to succeed,” said Mr. Bozzella.
Engineers and scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working for the past year to determine how much electric vehicle technology is likely to advance in the next decade in order to establish the strongest achievable exhaust emissions limits.
Tensions between the auto industry and the Biden administration have simmered over the past week, as the administration has had to rearrange its rollout of the proposal, according to three people familiar with what happened.
Officials had originally planned for Mr. Reagan to announce the policies in Detroit, surrounded by all-electric American-made vehicles.
But as auto and UAW executives learned the details of the proposed regulations, some became uncomfortable about publicly supporting them, according to people familiar with their thinking. The setup has been moved from Detroit to EPA headquarters in Washington, where Mr. Reagan is scheduled to give remarks on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
In an interview, Mr. Reagan acknowledged that some auto executives and UAW leaders have expressed concerns about the proposals — adding that they could be amended to allay those concerns.
“We are very aware that this is a proposal, and we want to give as much flexibility as possible,” he said. The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rules before finalizing them next year. The rules will take effect from the 2027 model year.
Environmentalists have praised Mr. Biden for keeping a promise he made during his first days in office, when he called climate change a “moral imperative, an economic imperative” that would be central to all of his decisions.
A report released by the International Energy Agency in 2021 found that countries would have to stop sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 to keep average global temperatures from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. After this point, scientists say, the effects of catastrophic heat waves, floods, droughts, crop failures and species extinction will become much more difficult for humanity to deal with. The planet has already warmed by an average of 1.1°C.
Mr. Biden has pledged to halve the country’s emissions by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2050. He took a big step toward that goal last summer, when he signed the Inflation Reduction Act. The spending includes $370 billion over the next decade to combat climate change, including tax incentives of up to $7,500 for the purchase of US-made electric cars.
This law is expected to help the United States reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2030 – not enough to meet Biden’s pledge. Experts said the new EPA regulations, if enacted as proposed, are necessary to reach Mr. Biden’s goal.
“The EPA standards are a huge step forward in addressing the biggest source of climate pollution: transportation,” said Luke Tonachel, senior director of the Clean Vehicles and Buildings Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
Mr. Tunachil said the sharp rise in electric vehicles in the US could mean that electric vehicles are more widely available and sold beyond its borders. “This could be a world-leading benchmark that puts the world on a much-needed path to reduce global pollution from transportation,” he said.
Lawrence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation who helped broker the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, welcomed the EPA’s work.
Tubiana said, “This is an affirmation to the world of the seriousness of Joe Biden’s involvement in the issue of climate change and keeping the United States at the forefront of the candidates in the field of climate.” It resonates well in Europe and the world.
However, others see the proposed regulations as government overreach and say they will almost certainly face legal challenges.
said Stephen J. Bradbury, who served as lead legal counsel for the Department of Transportation during the Trump administration. This is clearly driven by the President’s directives to achieve these results. I don’t think you can do this. Congress never thought of using the laws in this way.”
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