View from Away: Biden must put the pedal to metal on zero-emission cars

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President Joe Biden is right. Electric vehicles are the future. But for the sake of the planet, the future must come much sooner than the president and the automakers predict.

On Thursday, Biden proposed new fuel efficiency and exhaust emission standards for passenger cars and trucks that would effectively reverse President Trump’s clean-car setback, bringing U.S.-made vehicles back to the standards set. in place by the Obama administration. It is a return to what should have been the status quo.

The president also signed an executive order setting an ambitious but voluntary target that by 2030, half of new vehicles sold in the United States will be zero-emission models, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid or battery-electric models. fuel. The Big Three American automakers were aiming a little lower, announcing their “common aspiration” that zero-emission vehicles account for 40 to 50% of their sales in the United States.

Here’s the hard reality: the status quo is not sustainable, and goals and aspirations are no longer enough. It should be obvious by now that climate change is wreaking havoc and destruction across the world. Drastic measures will be needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avert a climate catastrophe. In the United States, where gasoline-powered cars and trucks are the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions, that means accelerating the transition to clean vehicles.

The signs coming out of the dealerships were not good. Over the years, consumers have bought more and more gas guzzling SUVs and trucks. Electric vehicles only account for 2% of the US new car sales market, which is less than in China and many European countries. In May, the International Energy Agency warned that governments will have to end the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The United States therefore has a long way to go.

The country wasted precious time and a drive towards clean cars during the Trump administration. Pushed by automakers, Trump relaxed Obama-era standards that required cars and light trucks to become increasingly fuel efficient; by 2025, they were expected to average over 50 miles per gallon. Automakers were to meet the target by developing and selling more hybrid and electric models, gradually reducing tailpipe pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s standard required automakers to reach an average of 40 mpg by 2026, which would have allowed companies to continue producing more gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. Biden’s proposal, which has yet to go through the rulemaking process, would reset the average fuel economy target to over 50 mpg by 2026. Biden also asked his administration to start developing Stricter fuel economy and emissions standards for 2027 and beyond.

At least in the short term, the United States is back to where it was four years ago, while other countries have continued to move forward, setting high targets for zero vehicle deployment. issue. China in particular has embraced electric vehicles, spurring the development of battery technology and a supply chain for electric vehicle manufacturing while increasing private investment in the field. Now, there is real concern that the lethargy of American automakers during the Trump years could end up hurting the global competitiveness of American industry.

Critical environmental and economic policies should not switch so easily between jurisdictions. While Biden’s voluntary target of 50% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030 is a good start, his administration and Congress must translate that target into law. They are also to follow through on funding to help build a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations and provide financial incentives for customers to purchase zero-emission vehicles – two elements of the large-scale initial infrastructure proposal. presidential wingspan that were either slashed or eliminated in the bipartisan bill before the Senate. Biden should make it clear to automakers and the public that the future is truly electric.

Los Angeles Times Editorial

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