On this date, a year ago, President Biden signed his Executive Order on “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks,” reaffirming his commitment to restoring strong clean car standards and taking strong measures to combat the main source of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the country. emissions – the transport sector.
This action was significant. Cleaning up the transportation sector is key to addressing our climate crisis and meeting the country’s emissions reduction targets. Over the past five decades, the adoption of emissions and fuel efficiency standards has reduced emissions, saving drivers money at the pumps and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
Clean car and fuel economy standards are the real path to energy independence.
Where are we now?
Since that statement a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) have acted on some of those orders, providing enhanced emissions and fuel efficiency standards for cars. and light trucks, and beginning the process of enacting more stringent emission standards for medium and heavy trucks.
It’s no surprise that since President Biden’s executive order, automakers and battery producers have now announced that more and more of their planned global investments in clean technology will come here, to be made in the United States. And the Senate stands on the precipice of passing a landmark bill, the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, a bill that contains strong provisions to reduce consumer pain at the pump and supports the manufacture of clean vehicles and energy security, while reducing climate pollution.
In order to finish the job and achieve the carbon reductions President Biden promised the country and the world, the toughest long-term vehicle emissions standards are needed. With strong support from Congress, now is the time for the EPA and DOT to do their part and adopt the strictest standards possible.
50% of electric vehicle sales in 2030
Perhaps one of the most notable and newsworthy provisions of the executive order was the goal President Biden set for half of new vehicle sales by 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles — including including battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or fuel cell electric vehicles. Vehicles.
Fortunately, the federal clean car emission standards finalized by the EPA last December will begin to put the United States on the path to meeting this sales target; but there is still urgency around the need to continue to improve air quality and continue to take climate protection action in order to meet President Biden’s climate goals.
That’s why the NRDC and many of our partners are calling on the EPA to act quickly on the next round of clean car standards for model years 2027 and beyond. For this next round of federal clean car standards to meet the timing, they would have to achieve the necessary pollution reductions by reducing the carbon pollution of new vehicles sold in 2030 by at least 60% compared to new vehicles from today. These standards should also be developed with a level of ambition that exceeds the president’s goal of having half of new vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, and the standards should be finalized no later than late next fall so we can be sure to lock in this progress.
Correcting course after Trump backtracking
In addition, the executive order also directed the EPA and DOT to address the Trump administration’s Safer and Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule, which involved incredibly harmful rollbacks of emission standards and fuels. energy efficiency standards, part of President Trump’s deregulation agenda.
SAFETY first part: The EPA tackled part of that directive in March of this year, when it reinstated California’s waiver of Clean Air Act preemption to allow the state to enforce clean air standards. vehicle exhaust more stringent than federal standards. In doing so, the EPA reaffirmed California’s authority to set exhaust emission standards to meet its public health and air quality needs, and the authority of other states to adopt and apply these standards.
Currently, the EPA is in the process of reviewing additional waiver requests for California’s truck programs and based on the voluminous record, the agency must continue to track historical precedent and move quickly to grant these waiver requests. exemption in their entirety.
SAFETY part two: The second part of Trump’s restoration has been addressed by both the EPA and the DOT. As mentioned earlier, the EPA tackled its share of this directive last December, finalizing revisions to its clean car standards to reduce carbon emissions and get us back on track to provide a solid launch point for the next phase of Agency standards for model years 2027 and beyond.
Additionally, in April of this year, the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) responded to its share of this setback by issuing new Average Company Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that would require an average of the industry-wide fleet of approximately 49 miles per hour. gallon (mpg) for 2026 model year passenger cars and light trucks, compared to the Trump administration’s 32 mpg.
While this action was certainly necessary and a step in the right direction, the version of the rule finalized by NHTSA was not the strongest version of the rule proposed by the agency. Given this, there is still some way to go to strengthen the rule, as NHTSA is legally required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 to set CAFE standards at the maximum achievable level that the agency determines that automakers can achieve each model year in order to improve energy conservation.
On top of that, President Biden’s executive order also directed NHTSA/DOT to consider fuel efficiency standards beyond 2027 for cars and trucks, and to do so within a timeframe similar to that of EPA emission standards.
We still need more progress
A year later, there is still a long way to go to advance vehicle emissions standards. In addition to the actions previously explored, the executive order also outlined several other regulations President Biden directed the EPA and DOT to begin considering for cars and trucks.
Some of these have been accomplished with final published rules (as noted above), some are in progress and close to finalization (i.e. Federal Clean Truck Rule) , and others are demanding that the EPA immediately get to work developing a proposal.
For example, the EPA is currently hard at work finalizing a rule that responds to the executive order’s call to reduce carbon emissions and other harmful pollutants from heavy-duty trucks by the end of 2022. The latest set of standards for trucks was developed over two decades. ago, so this new rule is long overdue. The objective of this rule is to reduce pollution from heavy vehicles and engines from truck model year 2027.
Strict standards are essential because emissions from heavy-duty vehicles – ranging from U-Haul trucks to school buses to 18-wheelers – emanate from our roads, ports and warehouses and into communities, homes and yards. games, poisoning our air and lungs. Across the country, exhaust fumes shroud communities living near freight operations, which are often, by design, low-income communities and communities of color.
The EPA still has an opportunity to reject the industry’s bogus arguments and finalize a rule, in time, that catches up from the federal level to the states that have taken the lead in protecting their residents by adopting tough new standards in vehicle emissions – including Advanced Clean Trucks and Heavy-Duty Omnibus rules.
Check out our blog to learn more about this clean truck rule, where it failed, and how the EPA still has time to match state action.
The EPA should also move quickly to propose an additional GHG and multi-pollutant rule to build on the current pending clean truck rule. This future rule is expected to match the state’s ambition by helping to accelerate the transition to zero-emission trucks – as seen by states adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks rule – especially as zero-emission electric trucks are the best technology available to reduce both harmful NOx and GHG emissions.
Last year, President Biden set a goal for the United States to show strong climate leadership. To achieve this, getting these remaining federal standards for clean cars and trucks across the finish line must be a priority for this administration.
Without prioritizing these regulations, we are failing to create the regulatory environment necessary to lock in and grow the major national investments envisioned by the industry in this decade that benefit our workers and our nation. As we move forward into the second year of President Biden’s pledges, we must not relent in our calls for the rapid finalization of ambitious emissions standards for cars and trucks. Time is running out and we have no time to waste.
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