White House to weaken climate-fighting fuel efficiency targets for 2030


At an intersection in Denver, Colorado, exhaust pours out of a tailpipes from accelerating vehicles onto Santa Fe Drive.
Enlarge / Polluted street scenes like this will remain common in the United States, which will abandon ambitious fuel efficiency standards in the face of complaints from automakers and unions.

Getty Images

It appears as if ambitious new fuel efficiency regulations that would require Americans to adopt many more electric vehicles are to be watered down. Last year, President Biden’s administration published proposed new Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations for 2027–2030, regulations that would require automakers to sell four times as many zero-emissions vehicles as they do now.

But opposition to the new CAFE standards has been fierce, and now Reuters reports that the White House is backing down and will issue new guidelines with less ambitious goals in the coming weeks.

The White House’s goal had been for US EV adoption to reach 50 percent of all new light vehicle sales by 2030, rising to 60 percent by 2032. In part, it proposed changing the modifier applied to each new zero-emissions vehicle when used to calculate an automaker’s fleet emissions.

Currently, the rules used by the CAFE regulations overestimate the efficiency of an EV by a large multiple, meaning an automaker can sell comparatively few EVs and yet receive a large boost to their average efficiency. In fact, the current rules create a perverse incentive to make inefficient gasoline-powered vehicles, since the OEMs know these can easily be offset.

The new, tougher rules were praised by environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and the Zero Emissions Transportation Association. But the Alliance for Automotive Innovation—a lobby group for the auto industry—called the rules “neither reasonable nor achievable” despite claiming not to oppose greenhouse gas emissions standards. And the United Auto Workers—which endorsed President Biden’s re-election—has claimed the fuel economy regulations would threaten jobs.

In addition to the tougher new fuel economy standards, the auto industry also wants to see the government relax attempts to regulate particulate pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles more strictly. European lawmakers passed similar rules recently, and new cars sold in the European Union now contain gasoline particulate filters—something automakers don’t want to have to do here in the US.


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