US releases ‘strongest ever’ car pollution rules in push for EV transition

The new environmental regulations fall short of more ambitious goals previously set by the Biden administration.

Joe Biden speaking at electric vehicle factory
US President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to a General Motors electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan, on November 17, 2021 [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Washington, DC – The United States has released what it calls the “strongest ever” regulations for car tailpipe pollution, as the country looks to accelerate its sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, the rules — released on Wednesday — fall short of more ambitious goals previously set by the administration of President Joe Biden.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it projects that the regulations would lead to 30 to 56 percent of new cars being electric between 2030 and 2032. Last year, the EPA projected that EVs would amount to 60 percent of new car sales by 2030 and 67 percent by 2032.

“With transportation as the largest source of US climate emissions, these strongest-ever pollution standards for cars solidify America’s leadership in building a clean transportation future and creating good-paying American jobs, all while advancing President Biden’s historic climate agenda,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

“The standards will slash over 7 billion tons of climate pollution, improve air quality in overburdened communities, and give drivers more clean vehicle choices while saving them money.”

In 2021, Biden signed an executive order setting an objective that half of US car sales in 2030 would be “zero-emissions vehicles”.

Close to eight percent of new car sales in the US in 2023 were electric vehicles, according to the EPA.

The car industry, however, has pushed back against the Biden administration’s efforts to tighten emissions regulations and speed up the transition to electric vehicles.

Biden’s agenda has also faced opposition from Republicans, as well as questions about whether the US has adequate infrastructure, including charging stations, to accommodate a significant increase in the number of electric cars on the roads.

But Democrats argue that curbing greenhouse emissions is necessary to address the climate crisis, as the planet sees some of its hottest temperatures on record. The EPA also said on Wednesday that the rules will save money in the long run.

“These standards will … provide nearly $100 billion of annual net benefits to society, including $13 billion of annual public health benefits due to improved air quality, and $62 billion in reduced annual fuel costs, and maintenance and repair costs for drivers,” it said.

Former President Donald Trump, who is set to face off with Biden in the general elections in November, has repeatedly criticised the Democratic incumbent over EVs.

Trump stirred controversy last week when he said there would be a “bloodbath” if Biden is reelected, arguing that the Democratic president would allow Chinese EVs, built in Mexican factories, to flood the US market.

He later clarified that his “bloodbath” comment was meant to indicate that the US car industry would suffer under his Democratic opponent.

In January, Trump also took aim at EVs. “There’s no such thing as fair transition that destroys over 100,000 auto manufacturing jobs,” he said.

But Biden has said that his policies will allow US companies to compete with the rest of the world, which is transitioning towards electric cars anyway.

On Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler hailed the new EPA rules as a win for “environment and public health”.

“The new standards will also save consumers money through reduced fuel consumption and maintenance costs,” he wrote in a social media post.

But Republican Congressman Tim Walberg slammed the regulations. “Despite consumer needs, grid & infrastructure concerns, & costs, Biden’s EPA is proceeding with its disastrous mandate”, he wrote on social media.

“EVs may be a good option for some, but Americans should have the right to buy whatever car best suits their family.”

Source: Al Jazeera