Biden Admin Set to Propose Tougher Emission Rules, Boost EV Sales

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Word on the street is that the Biden administration is about to propose some of the toughest emission rules the United States has ever seen in a bid to spur electric vehicle adoption. As things currently stand, the U.S. is assumed to be the very last developed nation to fully embrace EVs. But the White House seems to think the premise can be combated via a stringent regulatory framework.

Of course, the government and supportive media outlets are trying to drive home the point that these are not the same as the vehicle mandates being pushed in other countries (and some states like California) that would legally require people to buy electric in the coming years — even if the end result is functionally the same.

One of Biden’s stated goals going into office was to have 50 percent of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030. The White House followed up by announcing the first set of public-private commitments to support America's transition to electric vehicles under the EV Acceleration Challenge and later passed the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. The latter move reset the EV tax credit scheme (which was originally supposed to be temporary) and funneled massive amounts of money to carmakers and domestic companies responsible for building up the nation’s lackluster EV charging infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, the Biden administration’s next offensive is forthcoming. Inside sources have alleged that stricter standards for cars and light trucks will be proposed in a matter of days. The focus was stated to be reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide (which encourages smog), and other forms of pollution emanating from vehicles manufactured for model years 2027-2032.

From Bloomberg:

The plan is part of a multipronged Biden administration strategy to clamp down on planet-warming pollution from transportation and electricity, taking advantage of hundreds of billions of dollars of clean energy incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is writing the new requirements, is also set to propose new rules for greenhouse gas releases from heavy-duty trucks on Wednesday and power plants as soon as later this month.
Limits on car pollution are key to helping the U.S. meet its Paris Agreement commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade and fulfilling President Joe Biden’s ambition for at least half of all new vehicle sales to be electric models by 2030.
While U.S. automakers such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have outlined bullish plans for EV sales, environmental advocates say aggressive tailpipe standards are necessary.
“There has to be continuous pressure for improvement” to prevent industry backsliding, Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said.

However, a lot of these activist groups work for NGOs that often serve as influencers for the government and multinational corporations. There are no such comparable organizations representing what consumers actually want and this is reflected by the disparity between today's EV sales and the current government’s obsession with ensuring that everyone drives one.

But this is being downplayed in the media by floating the premise that the EPA will reject some of the requests being made by most environmentalists to establish firm standards through 2035. Curious, considering we don’t yet have any indication of what the targets these forthcoming proposals will yield.

Meanwhile, the automotive sector has been pretty clear that it still wants more tax funding allocated to the cause and access to the minerals necessary for battery production if there’s any hope of adhering to the government’s proposed timeline. Though most have verbally committed themselves to running with electric propulsion as they let the development of combustion engines fall by the wayside.

"Every dollar invested in internal combustion technology is a dollar not spent on zero carbon technology,” stated the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the world’s largest automotive trade lobby.

As previously noted, the proposed rules are assumed to cover the 2027 through 2032 model years and advance the Biden administration’s goal of having 50 percent of U.S. vehicles be fully electric or plug-in hybrids. However, it will allegedly stop short of adhering to vehicle bans backed by California — which intends on restricting the sale of new gasoline-only light-duty vehicles by 2035.

In December, California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Officer Steven Cliff said that the federal government should "look at stringency that’s equivalent to our rules ... We’re 68 [percent] zero emissions in 2030 so modeling that and looking at that as an option for 2030 is absolutely critical.”

But snubbing CARB’s advice doesn’t necessarily preclude the EPA from being super aggressive. Same with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While primarily a safety regulator, the NHTSA is supposed to issue new guidance for new fuel economy standards relatively soon. These are assumed to be far more aggressive than in previous years, as government agencies all seem to be spinning themselves up into setting extremely high regulatory benchmarks.

Will it matter? Sure. But we don’t know for how long and if it’ll be all that helpful for consumers. Rollbacks introduced during the Trump administration as a way to spur domestic jobs and keep vehicle pricing low were destroyed by executive order the moment Biden came into office. Subsequent executive orders, made by future administrations, may likewise undo whatever is put into place now.

Meanwhile, increasingly strict emission targets have been undermined by automakers continuing to cull small, efficient vehicles from their lineups in exchange for something bigger, heavier, pricier, and presumably tougher on the environment than it needs to be. Battery mining has likewise turned out to be ecologically problematic and the energy required to charge them for daily use still has to come from somewhere. That’s not a condemnation of these trends or people’s right to buy the vehicles they wish, just a reminder that things change and we don’t live in a vacuum.

Expect a follow-up report about the details of the proposed rule changes later this month.

[Image: Dogora Sun/Shutterstock]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
3 of 170 comments
  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Apr 11, 2023

    Democrats aren't going to tell you what you have to drive, that's crazy talk. Oh wait....

  • Zerofoo Zerofoo on Apr 11, 2023

    "Biden doesn't control energy prices"

    This is laughable and shows how badly Biden's supports fail to understand supply-side economics.

    When you decrease supply of anything in an environment when demand remains constant or increases, prices increase. Econ 101.

    Now ask yourself, what has this administration done to increase energy supplies? Any new pipelines, drilling leases, or refining capacity? Has this administration signaled stability in the regulatory environment to give producers the confidence to make investments that take decades to recover?

    Go ahead - believe whatever you want, but this administration's policies DO impact prices.

    • EBFlex EBFlex on Apr 11, 2023

      But he’s pumping more oil than ever!!!

      (Purposely ignoring that demand is causing oil to be pumped at a higher rate, not the installed “(P)resident”. Remember Beijing Biden personally pumps all of the US oil but isn’t at all able to influence the price)

  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.
  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.