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Car emissions rule aims to satisfy business, enviros

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Mar 20, 2024
Illustration of the earth in the shape of a traffic cone

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's final rules for cleaner cars are another effort to appease business types while keeping climate activists happy.

Why it matters: We're seeing a pattern in Biden's climate rules — slightly weakened official regs that are examples of managing the Democratic coalition.

Driving the news: The EPA today rolled out its tailpipe standards for cars, SUVs, pickups and medium-duty vans model years 2027 to 2032. The agency finished its standards through 2026 earlier in Biden's term.

  • The rule would substantially curb vehicles' emissions of greenhouse gases, particulate matter (PM 2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • Carmakers will be compelled to sell a fleet matching an increasingly stringent average vehicle emissions standard over time, or face financial penalties.

Zoom in: This a big win for the campaign to decarbonize transportation and one of multiple actions that were expected on cars and climate.

  • The Energy Department yesterday finished a key fuel efficiency benchmark.
  • We're also expecting the Transportation Department to finish emissions standards for buses and trucks soon.

Between the lines: Carmakers will still face incredible pressure to sell more EVs under the final rule — with a big caveat.

  • For cars, the standards would cut the current average CO2 grams-per-mile standard essentially in half. For pickups and vans, it would be about 44% lower.
  • But there's now some lenience, as companies get more time to comply with the standards than under the initial proposed rule.
  • Officials also told reporters yesterday they expect carmakers to sell more plug-in hybrids to meet the tailpipe standards, which the EPA insists are "technology-neutral."

What EPA's saying: Per a fact sheet shared with Axios, officials expect "manufacturers will choose to produce a diverse range of clean vehicles under the standards, including cleaner gasoline vehicles, hybrids … and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles … and full battery electric vehicles."

  • "This will translate into more vehicle options for consumers in the showroom."

Between the lines: This is yet another example of a Biden climate rule becoming milder during the comment period.

  • As we've noted, these compromises can have a political benefit down ballot.

What we're watching: After the SEC climate disclosure rule got nixed by a judge last week, we'll be closely monitoring the GOP legal challenges against the car standards.

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