June 4, 2023

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

The Environmental Protection Agency sets turbocharging rules for electric car and truck sales

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed 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.

The new rules would require nothing less than a revolution in the American automobile industry, a moment in some ways as significant as the June morning of 1896 when Henry Ford took his “horseless carriage” for a test drive, and it changed American life and industry.

The challenge for the government to automakers is huge. Last year, all-electric vehicles accounted for just 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the United States. All-electric trucks were even rarer, making up less than 2 percent of new heavy-duty trucks sold.

Nearly all of the major automakers have invested billions in producing electric vehicles at the same time they continue to make conventional gasoline-powered cars, which are profitable. The proposed regulations would require them to invest more and redirect their operations in ways that would essentially spell the end for the internal combustion engine.

If the two EPA rules are enacted as proposed, they would put the world’s largest economy on track to reduce its greenhouse emissions at the pace that scientists say is required of all nations in order to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

“When President Biden took office, he launched the most ambitious climate agenda in US history, and pledged to restore American leadership,” said Michael S. Reagan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in remarks outside agency headquarters Wednesday. . “I am pleased to announce that the EPA is proposing the strongest federal pollution technology standards ever for both cars and trucks. Together, today’s actions will accelerate our continued transition to a clean car future, head-on addressing the climate crisis and improving air quality in poor communities across the country “.

“This is historic news,” he said.

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 has set this limit so tightly that the only way manufacturers can comply is by selling a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles. In each model year in which the rule is in effect, auto companies will report to the federal government average greenhouse emissions for all new cars sold. Companies that do not meet the standards can be punished in various ways, including billions of dollars in fines.

The proposed regulations are sure to face legal challenges from those who view them as government overreach. A group of about a dozen Republican attorneys general has filed lawsuits against the Biden administration’s climate policies, and one of its leaders, Attorney General Patrick Morrissey of West Virginia, has suggested the group will fight the latest proposals.

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“This administration is bent on destroying America’s energy security and independence by making us dependent on resources and components that can only come from abroad,” Mr. Morrissey said. “Over the coming weeks, we’ll take a hard look at the proposed rule, and we’ll be ready once again to lead the charge against flawed energy proposals like this one.”

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 use some other form of zero-emissions technology by the same year, according to the plan.

The EPA has also proposed an accompanying rule governing heavy vehicles, designed so that half of new buses and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold, including large 18-wheel excavators, 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.

While major automakers have invested heavily in electrification, they are concerned about customer demand for pricier all-electric models, battery supplies and the speed with which a national network of charging stations can be built.

Auto workers fear job losses, because electric cars require less than half the number of workers to assemble them than cars with internal combustion engines. Labor unions are particularly concerned because many of the new electric car plants and battery plants are being built in southern states that are politically hostile to union labor and where wages are relatively low.

“There’s little reason why electric vehicle manufacturing can’t be the gateway to the middle class where auto jobs have been for generations of unionized auto workers,” Sean Fine, president of the Detroit Federation of Auto Workers, said in a statement. “But the early signs of this industry are worrying, as it prioritizes corporate greed over economic justice.”

Union workers and auto manufacturers have been expressing their various concerns directly to the president since 2021, when Mr. Biden announced an executive order directing government policies to ensure that 50 percent of all new passenger car sales are electric by 2030.

As word got out last week that Mr. Biden’s new regulations were designed to go further, some automakers backed away.

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.”

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“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 go in the right direction to bring about this massive and unprecedented change in our automotive market and industrial base,” said Mr. Bozzella.

At least one US automaker, Tesla, is poised to emerge as a unique winner under the new rules because it only produces electric cars. Other automakers who are behind in electrification technology have suggested that compliance will be a struggle but none have yet said they will challenge the rules.

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler — which makes Dodge, Ram and Jeep cars — was ranked last year by the Environmental Protection Agency as the worst car company in the country for fuel efficiency.

In a statement, Eric Mayne, a spokesman for Stellantis, said the company was surprised by the proposed rules, because they are far more ambitious than Biden’s previously announced goal of 50 percent of all new electric vehicle sales by 2030. But for now, Mr. Mayne said, “ We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the agency as the process moves forward.”

Engineers and scientists at the EPA’s Automotive Laboratory have been working over 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 tailpipe emissions limits.

David Haugen, director of the lab, said car companies have long complained about new environmental and emissions standards. “We’ve heard it from them for 50 years, and then the companies have done a great job of meeting it every time the standards came along, which gives us confidence that this standard is going to work out well,” he said.

Tensions between the auto industry, auto workers, 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 was moved from Detroit to EPA headquarters in Washington. No one from the union of auto workers showed up, according to a spokesperson for the organization, although Mr. Bozzella and representatives from Ford, General Motors and Mercedes were present.

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In an interview, Mr. Reagan acknowledged that some auto executives and UAW leaders have expressed concerns about the offerings, adding that they could be modified 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 extinctions 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, were 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, who helped broker the 2015 Paris climate agreement and is now CEO of the European Climate Foundation, 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.