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President Joe Biden Aug. 5 signed an executive order that seeks to have zero-emissions vehicles make up 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030, as the administration also laid out long-awaited plans for bolstering fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and trucks.
A White House fact sheet said the new actions, when paired with the once-in-a-lifetime investments sought in the Build Back Better agenda and bipartisan infrastructure deal, would position "America to drive the electric vehicle future forward, outcompete China and tackle the climate crisis."
The future of the automobile industry is electric, Biden said in an Aug. 5 speech, sharing the administration's "playbook" for returning the US to a position of leadership in electric vehicle manufacturing and battery technology advancements.
Automakers applauded the steps to strengthen US leadership in clean cars and trucks on a timeline that would allow for manufacturing facility upgrades without stranding assets. But environmental groups worried the measures would be inadequate to accomplish the drastic carbon emissions reductions needed to tackle the climate threat.
FUEL ECONOMY RULEMAKINGS
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation Aug. 5 provided details on their coordinated notices of proposed rulemaking to strengthen near-term fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards that were drastically rolled back as part of the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda.
The NPRMs will cover vehicle model years 2023 through 2026 and build on voluntary agreements California brokered with BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group and Volvo.
EPA's proposed rule calls for a nearly 10% improvement in fuel efficiency from model year 2022 to 2023, followed by annual reductions in light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 5% through 2026.
The proposal is projected to result in a nationwide fleet average fuel efficiency of 52 miles per gallon for model year 2026, compared with the average fuel-efficiency requirement of 43.3 mpg by 2026 under the Trump administration rule currently in effect and the 54.5 mpg by 2025 projected under the Obama-era car rules.
The Trump administration's fuel economy targets for 2021-26 model-year light-duty vehicles would have increased US oil demand by an estimated 500,000 b/d.
The White House said the new standards "would deliver around $140 billion in net benefits over the life of the standards, including asthma attacks avoided and lives saved, save about 200 billion gallons of gasoline, and reduce around 2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution," which would translate into net savings of up to $900 for average consumers over the life of the vehicle.
In addition to setting a 50% vehicle electrification goal for sales by 2030, which could be met through battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric or fuel cell electric vehicles, the executive order also kickstarts work on long-term clean car and truck standards.
The White House said the order includes a "robust schedule for development of fuel efficiency and multi-pollutant emissions standards through at least model year 2030 for light-duty vehicles and for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles starting as early as model year 2027." The text of the order had not been made public as of press time.
The order will also direct agencies to consult with the departments of Commerce, Labor and Energy to craft plans for accelerating auto innovation and manufacturing, strengthening the domestic supply chain for the sector and creating good-paying jobs.
Agencies are also encouraged to engage with California and other states at the forefront of vehicle emissions reductions and obtain feedback from labor unions, environmental justice groups, public health experts and industry.
A joint statement from US automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis said the dramatic shift in the US auto market envisioned by the president "can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the administration in the Build Back Better Plan, including purchase incentives, a comprehensive charging network of sufficient density to support the millions of vehicles these targets represent, investments in R&D, and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains in the United States."
Ford, GM and Stellantis announced their "shared aspiration" for 40%-50% of their annual US sales to come from electric vehicles by 2030.
A separate joint statement from BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo noted they also were "driving towards 40%-50% of our sales being EVs in the next nine years," but would need "bold action" from the federal government "to build consumer demand for electric vehicles and put us on track to achieve the global commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement."
The administration's vision for US leadership in auto manufacturing relayed through the Aug. 5 announcements "would put us on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger vehicle sales by more than 60% in 2030 compared to vehicles sold last year, and facilitate achieving the president's goal of 50%-52% net economywide greenhouse gas emission reductions below 2005 levels in 2030," according to the White House fact sheet.
The environmental community, however, has expressed skepticism as to whether the administration and policymakers will be as swift and aggressive as needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.
"This proposal delivers less carbon pollution reductions than the Obama-era standards and must be strengthened by eliminating excessive giveaways to the industry," Simon Mui, deputy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Clean Vehicles and Fuels Group, said in an Aug. 5 statement. "Longer-term, the administration is right that at least half of all new vehicle sales must be electric by the end of the decade. EPA must now move expeditiously to put strong standards in place to ensure automakers deliver on that goal while also slashing pollution from gasoline and diesel vehicles. Anything less puts our health and climate at unnecessary risk."
Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Safe Climate Transport Campaign, accused the president of yielding to the auto lobby with "loophole-riddled rules" and "unenforceable voluntary commitments from unreliable car makers."
"Global warming is burning forests, roasting the West and worsening storms. Now is not the time to propose weak standards and promise strong ones later," Becker said in an Aug. 5 statement. "Automakers have the technology to safely slash emissions. Consumers will save more at the pump than the improvements cost."
Global Energy Awards | December 9, 2021
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