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Data: EPA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The average fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. dipped in model year 2019, newly released federal data shows.

Why it matters: Transportation is the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The overall trends (see above) show that the sector is far from steep emissions cuts.

How it works: Per Reuters, "The shift to larger vehicles was the biggest factor hurting fuel economy. In 2019, 44% of the fleet were cars and 56% were light-duty trucks, a category that includes SUVs, the highest percentage of trucks on record."

What they're saying: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the data justifies his agency's decision to weaken Obama-era rules on mileage and CO2 emissions to allow smaller increases through the mid-2020s.

  • "This report shows in detail how few auto manufactures were able to meet the unrealistic emissions standards set by the Obama administration without resorting to purchasing emission credits," he said.

The other side: Dan Becker, an advocate for much tougher emissions standards, said the data show why the incoming administration must reverse Trump policy.

  • "Without tough rules from the Biden administration, automakers will keep pushing gas-guzzling Trumpmobiles on consumers rather than deliver clean cars that cut pollution," said Becker, who's with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: The future of sustainable vehicles

On Friday, January 22, Axios' Joann Muller hosted a conversation on the future of electric vehicles in the U.S., featuring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and SAFE founder and CEO Robbie Diamond.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow discussed legislation focusing on electric vehicle infrastructure, from charging stations across the country, to investing in the development of electric heavy-duty trucks and larger vehicles.

  • On the Biden administration's focus on electrification: "I'm very excited about the Biden administration's major push on electric charging stations...So people [can] feel comfortable that they can not only drive around town but can drive across the country and have the [infrastructural] support for that."
  • On how the government can learn from the private sector on spurring growth for electric vehicles: "Companies on their own are putting together incentives and support for folks who are doing grants or tax credits or supporting folks that are putting in the capacity to charge at home. I think we have to just get over this sense that this is hard. This is not hard."

Robbie Diamond unpacked the manufacturing supply chain in electric vehicle development and stressed the importance of diversifying sources for battery materials.

  • Why electricity is a flexible fuel source: "We had recommended that we diversify the fuel sources into our transportation sector. And one of the best ways to do that is through electric vehicles...because we produce electricity using so many different fuel sources."
  • On investment in electric vehicles as a part of international security: "When you begin to look at this, the control that China has over batteries and the supply chain of electric vehicles is way bigger than Saudi Arabia ever had or OPEC when it came to oil."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drummond hosted a View from the Top segment with Ford Motor Company Americas and International Markets Group President Kumar Galhotra discussing the future of electric cars in the U.S. and the importance of the public and private sectors working together.

  • "This is the fuel of the future. And we don't want to get left behind because Europe and China already have very clearly articulated strategies for electrification [and] electric vehicles that we don't have yet. So it is very important for us, both the government, this administration, and automakers to accelerate electrification plans."

Thank you Ford Motor Company for sponsoring this event.

In cyber espionage, U.S. is both hunted and hunter

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

American outrage over foreign cyber espionage, like Russia's SolarWinds hack, obscures the uncomfortable reality that the U.S. secretly does just the same thing to other countries.

Why it matters: Secrecy is often necessary in cyber spying to protect sources and methods, preserve strategic edges that may stem from purloined information, and prevent diplomatic incidents.

53 mins ago - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.