Just days after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) finalized its plan to ban internal combustion engines by 2035, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency due to an overtaxed energy grid. Citizens are now being asked to ration their power usage while the government tries to figure out new protocols for dealing with the matter. This includes asking the owners of all-electric vehicles to hold off on charging them. However, people are starting to wonder what this ultimately means with respect to the proposed future where the state has effectively mandated all residents to drive EVs.
National fuel prices are currently averaging right around $5.00 per gallon in the United States. However, there are plenty of states with stations listing gasoline well above $6.00 per gallon with diesel being driven even higher. This has started to wreak havoc on the trucking industry, which is now seeing companies pausing shipments to renegotiate contracts, and infuriated consumers who remember a gallon of gas being $2.17 during the summer of 2020.
Earlier this year, Congress and the White House suggested suspending the federal fuel tax to alleviate the financial burden. But the notion was walked back, as prices were relatively low at the time (roughly $3.50 per gallon) and criticisms swelled that this simply exchanged one problem for another. Four months later and things are looking rather desperate, with the Biden administration revisiting the premise of pausing fuel tax to help soften the blow of record-breaking prices at the pump.
On Monday, General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, and Toyota Motor North America reportedly asked the United States Congress to lift the existing cap on the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles. Though automakers petitioning the government for free money is hardly new business.
Last week, a group of Republican attorneys general decided to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to reinstate the waiver allowing California to set its own limitations on exhaust gasses and zero-emission vehicle mandates that would exceed federal standards.
The agency approved the waiver after it had been eliminated as part of the Trump administration’s fuel rollback on the grounds that it would create a schism within the industry by forcing automakers to produce vehicles that catered to the Californian market at the expense of products that might be appreciated in other parts of the country. However, Joe Biden’s EPA sees things differently and has aligned itself with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in giving the state more leeway to govern itself in regard to emissions policing.
With the United States Department of Transportation having formally announced upgraded Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards starting in 2024, the Biden administration was quick to point out that the decision would likely make automobiles even more expensive than they already are. However, the caveat to this was that it also assumed fuel prices would come down as improved efficiencies reduced North America’s hunger for fuel.
This effectively undoes fueling rollbacks instituted under the Trump administration on the grounds of reducing costs to consumers and cutting regulatory red tape for a prospective future where fuel prices are reduced without the need to spur oil production. But what does that actually mean in terms of dollars and cents?
President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers have suggested ending the federal gas tax until 2023 as a way to offset fuel prices that are nearing record levels and possibly appease some on-the-fence voters ahead of midterm elections. Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) recently pitched the bill in Congress. While the White House has not made any official endorsements, it’s offered tacit support by saying it didn’t want to limit itself in terms of finding new ways of easing the financial burdens Americans are facing during a period of high inflation.
“Every tool is on the table to reduce prices,” White House assistant press secretary Emilie Simons said in regard to a possible gas tax holiday. “The president already announced an historic release of 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and all options are on the table looking ahead.”
General Motors has issued a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom promising that the automaker is now fully committed to complying with the state’s aggressive emission regulations. This follows an earlier announcement from GM advancing plans to eliminate tailpipe emission from all light-duty vehicles by 2035 via electrification. The company had also increased global spending to develop EVs to $35 billion (USD) through 2025, which is roughly a third more than it had previously been targeting.
Of course, don’t think this has anything to do with altruism or formal commitments to some grand cause. California was simply planning to bar any automakers that hadn’t previously vowed to adhere to its strict regulatory policies from selling to state government fleets. While GM has been in the process of changing its allegiance, the business originally sided with automakers approving of the Trump administration’s regulatory revisions that were at odds with the region.
We’ve got good news for people who want fewer choices in the type of cars they’ll be able to purchase in the future.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized strict new vehicle emissions requirements through 2026 that would reverse the current standards set by the agency under former President Donald Trump. The Trump administration rolled back some of the long-term environmental policies implemented under the Obama administration. However, the Biden administration has said its biggest focus will be on addressing climate issues by dissolving those policies restoring the targets established when Barack Obama was still in the White House. The agency released some proposals in August outlining the general path it would be taking. But the details dropped by EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Monday vastly exceed those Obama metrics serving as a benchmark.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has decided that residential lawn equipment is a major problem. Claims have been made that the small engines found inside of the average leaf blower emit the same amount of smog-forming pollution in a single hour as a 2016 Toyota Camry could produce over a 1,100-mile drive.
Assertions like these have been used to forward Assembly Bill No. 1346, which requires the board to define and then pull the trigger on new regulations designed “to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines” by 2022. CARB then has to decide whether or not it can outright ban them, so they may be replaced by zero-emission equivalents after 2024. Considering how decent most electrified tools have grown to be, this doesn’t sound infeasible. But it’s another example of California’s obsessive hatred of consumers utilizing liquid fuel and bound to have major ramifications.
Last month, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new rules that would increase fines for automakers who previously failed to adhere to fuel efficiency requirements. EV manufacturer Tesla has predictably endorsed the rules and has begun urging the federal government to put the plan in action as soon as possible.
While automakers have issued concerns that increasing penalties could cost them over $1 billion per year through regulatory fines and the purchasing of carbon credits, Tesla has been asking the Biden administration and a U.S. appeals court to expedite the process and make the proposals binding. Though that’s undoubtedly because the company sells its credits to the tune of at least $350 million annually and doesn’t build a single automobile that’s powered by gasoline.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it would be suspending oil and gas leases issued in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the last days of the Trump administration. Bent on maintaining the United State’s energy independence, Donald Trump had moved to expand fossil fuel development in ways that would have been at odds with predecessor Barack Obama. But today’s White House represents a return to form, with an interest in supplanting traditional energy concerns with what it believes will be greener alternatives.
It’s bad news for the Alaskan state government, which had hoped to devote a subset of the region to rebuilding its oil industry by taking advantage of its vast reserves. But environmentalists and a subset of tribal representatives have praised the decision to prohibit development on protected lands. We expect consumers will have conflicting opinions, based largely upon how much they’re willing to pay at the pump.
Having noticed that Washington got a bit of publicity for vowing to ban all vehicles reliant on internal combustion after 2030, a dozen other American states decided it would be a good idea to reaffirm their own religious-like commitment to the environment by saying they too will be restricting your choice of automobiles by 2035.
The coalition of states — most of which don’t have a populace that’s dependent on automotive manufacturing for work — also formally asked the Biden administration to introduce standards that would obligate the United States to ban everything that emits smoke within the next fifteen years. Many activist groups are calling it a heroic act, though it’s difficult to recall any parables where the hero went around banning things and also represented an institutional power structure.
Washington has elected to become the first slice of America to ban the internal combustion motor, and we don’t just mean new sales. The Pacific state passed a bill on Thursday that would make the registration of gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles from the 2030 model year onwards illegal — leaving residents with the option to purchase a new electric vehicle, buy a secondhand gas burner, or throw up their hands and move elsewhere.
It’s an interesting concept, especially considering there’s very little evidence to suggest the industry will be at a point where total EV adoption will be remotely plausible by 2030. Even California, which is famous for its heavy-handed environmental regulations didn’t think it could start mandating the death of the internal combustion engine until at least 2035. Though Washington is reportedly not making this a concrete rule and it hinges on the adoption of another bill that would tax vehicles based on the number of miles driven. Think of it like a fuel tax that follows you around, even if you’re not using any.
With environmental regulations being a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris platform, the administration’s newly installed Environmental Protection Agency head has signaled that changes are coming over the summer. However, before that can take place, Administrator Michael Regan said wants to make some big changes within the agency that he believes will bring it back to the way it operated before being restructured by the Trump administration.
In the meantime, the EPA will be actively revising the previous president’s relaxed fuel economy standard designed to give the industry some flexibility in terms of keeping larger vehicles and traditional powertrains on sale — something we’ve covered repeatedly as it ended up being the proverbial football in the highly political American gas war. Considering Mr. Regan’s history of praising California’s climate response and energy protocols, his allegiances in the conflict should be obvious. However, he has also suggested that the EPA needs to make decisions on what’s feasible, indicating he may not push for extreme measures. Though he has not drawn any lines in the sand when it comes to potential bans of internal combustion vehicles or stringent penalties for power plants and oil refineries.
The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR) is officially withdrawing from a lawsuit between California and federal authorities over the coastal state’s ability to establish its own emissions standards. California leadership had vowed to ignore the Trump administration’s proposed rollback and began making binding side deals with automakers (specifically BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Honda) committed to adhering to the aggressive limits established under President Obama. Unfortunately, this ran the risk of undermining the revised national standards penned shortly after the United States became energy independent. It also set up the CSAR to embrace any entity that had views conflicting with California Air Resources Board.
Federal concerns were that the Golden State setting its own targets would butt heads with the relaxed national benchmarks and ultimately divide the U.S. market and may even influence the types of vehicles that were manufactured for all of North America. But the issue became moot once President Biden broke the record for executive orders by signing 22 in his first week. Predictably, the brunt of these were designed to instantly undo any actions taken throughout the duration of the Trump administration and included one directing the Department of Transportation and EPA to reconsider the 2019 decision to remove California’s authority to limit tailpipe emissions by April and revise the fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles by summer.