The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations to date, two plans designed to ensure two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold in the United States are all-electric by 2032.
The new rules would require nothing short of a revolution in the U.S. auto industry, a moment in some ways as significant as the June morning in 1896 when Henry Ford took his “horseless carriage” for a test run and changed American life and industry.
If the two rules from the Environmental Protection Agency are enacted as proposed, they would put the world’s largest economy on track to slash its planet-warming emissions at the pace that scientists say is required of all nations in order to avert the most devastating impacts of climate change.
The government’s challenge to automakers is monumental. Last year, all-electric vehicles accounted for just 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the United States. All-electric trucks were even more rare, making up fewer than 2 percent of new heavy trucks sold.
Nearly all major automakers have already invested billions in producing electric vehicles at the same time as they continue to manufacture the conventional vehicles powered by gasoline, which deliver their profits. The proposed regulations would require them to invest more heavily and reorient their processes in ways that would essentially spell the end of the internal combustion engine.
The E.P.A. is “proposing the strongest-ever federal pollution technology standards for both cars and trucks,” said Michael S. Regan, the agency’s administrator, in remarks outside E.P.A. headquarters on Wednesday. “Together, today’s actions will accelerate our ongoing transition to a clean vehicle future, tackle the climate crisis head on and improve air quality in poor communities all across the country.”
“This is historic news,” he said.
The E.P.A. cannot mandate that carmakers sell a certain number of electric vehicles. But under the Clean Air Act, the agency can limit the pollution generated by the total number of cars each manufacturer sells. And the agency has set that limit so tightly that the only way manufacturers can comply is to sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles. Each model year that the rule is in effect, car companies will report to the federal government the average greenhouse emissions of all new cars sold. Companies that fall short of the standard could be penalized in different ways, including fines of billions of dollars.
The proposed regulations will surely face legal challenges from those who see them as government overreach. A group of about a dozen Republican attorneys general has filed lawsuits against the Biden administration’s climate polices, and one of its leaders, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, suggested the group would fight the newest proposals. [Continue reading…]