The Biden administration’s proposal on Wednesday to sharply cut tailpipe emissions and vehicle pollutants is on a fast track as the future of U.S. auto production could become a presidential campaign issue next year.
The Environmental Protection Agency is moving with urgency to mandate a 56% cut in vehicle emissions by 2032, a requirement it forecasts will result in EVs accounting for two of every three new vehicles sold within a decade.
Democrats say the proposal will save consumers money in refueling costs and spur U.S. manufacturing, while Republicans are castigating it, saying it will make cars too expensive and prevent Americans from buying gas-powered models.
After Donald Trump won the presidency in November 2016, the EPA quickly finalized a determination that fuel efficiency rules instituted by then-President Barack Obama should be locked in through 2025.
Under Trump, the EPA reversed that decision and rolled back the Obama standards, a move that would have increased U.S. oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day by the 2030s.
President Joe Biden reinstated the Obama rules in 2022 mandating a 28.3% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2026 and in 2021 set a goal of EVs or plug-in hybrids accounting for 50% of new cars sold by 2030.
Biden, a self-proclaimed “car guy,” will accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, the White House said on Wednesday. The EPA rules are also crucial to meeting the administration climate goals.
EPA must finalize its latest standards by early 2024 or a new president and Congress in 2025 could more easily reverse it.
“EPA’s proposed emissions plan is aggressive by any measure,” said John Bozzella, CEO of auto industry trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation. “It sets automotive electrification goals in the next few years that are very high.”
Biden has steadfastly refused to back setting a date to end the sale of internal combustion vehicles and has not endorsed California’s plan to end gasoline-only vehicle sales by 2035.
Biden has said he intends to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2024 but has not made a formal announcement.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan declined to endorse banning gasoline vehicle sales. “We’re not driving any particular technology out of business – so to speak,” he said on Wednesday.
EPA is also proposing to mandate a 60% cut in so-called criteria pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, for cars and trucks by 2032.
Some auto officials say privately that EPA’s aggressive greenhouse gas standards, elimination of credits and cuts in criteria pollutants may make it unfeasible to sell many gasoline models by 2030.