Mar 21, 2024 - Energy & Environment

What to know about Biden's "stretch goal" on auto emissions

Illustration of lightning bolts emanating from the White House.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

One statistic is all it takes to understand the far-reaching effects of the Biden administration's new emissions targets for cars and light trucks.

Why it matters: Between 2027 and 2055, the EPA claims the rule would cut 7 billion tons of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to eliminating at least a year's worth of U.S. emissions, from all sources.

Driving the news: The rule targets the heart of America's biggest source of greenhouse gases: transportation.

  • It aims to accelerate the transition to EVs and other low-emitting vehicles, without outright telling carmakers what models to sell.

Context: The final rule departs from the initial proposal in key ways that reflect market and political realities.

  • It allows manufacturers to include hybrid EVs and plug-in hybrids for meeting the emissions reduction requirements, in addition to battery powered EVs (The initial rule did not include such vehicles).
  • This reflects that the increase in EV uptake is slowing somewhat, and also incorporates union concerns about shifting to EV production lines too quickly.
  • It also slows the ratcheting up of emissions reduction requirements.

What they're saying: "These adjusted EV targets – still a stretch goal – should give the market and supply chains a chance to catch up," said John Bozzella, President and CEO, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, in a statement.

By the numbers: A fact sheet provided to reporters shows that during the 2030-2032 manufacturing years, carmakers may choose to produce between 30% to 56% of new light duty vehicle sales as battery electric vehicles, with the rest consisting of a mix of other clean vehicle technologies.

  • The EPA calculates the rule would provide $100 billion of annual net benefits to society, including $13 billion in annual health benefits.

The intrigue: Many politicians, including presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, industry groups and others, are criticizing the rule as an "EV mandate."

  • While the rule would push carmakers to churn out many more EVs and hybrids, it would leave the specific car mix up to them.
  • It would also still allow the sale and driving of gasoline-powered cars.
  • The criticism of the rule as a de facto mandate is bipartisan, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) criticizing it in a statement Wednesday: "The federal government has no authority and no right to mandate what type of car or truck Americans can purchase for their everyday lives."

Yes, but: The rule would forcefully press the accelerator on the EV and hybrid transition, even if it does not contain a formal mandate.

Friction point: You can expect to hear a lot about this rule as the presidential election heats up.

What we're watching: Rule opponents will move to overturn this in court, and two senators are already trying to repeal it via legislation.

  • "This rule is delusional," said Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) in a statement. "This is the Biden administration's attempt to get rid of the internal-combustion engine without congressional authority," they stated.
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