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Biden administration cracks down on gasoline-fueled cars

The US environmental regulator has finalized rules that could force a ninefold increase in the market share of electric vehicles

US President Joe Biden’s administration has followed through on its pledge to accelerate the phaseout of cars powered by internal combustion engines, unveiling new emissions rules that may force the nation’s auto industry to be dominated by electric vehicles (EVs) in less than a decade.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new emissions standards for passenger vehicles on Wednesday, laying out limits that will start getting tougher in 2027 and ratchet further downward through 2032. The agency said that under one scenario, its 2032 standard could be met if 56% of new cars and trucks sold are EVs and 13% are plug-in hybrids.

EVs accounted for just 7.6% of new vehicle sales in the US last year, meaning the new rules may necessitate a ninefold increase in the segment’s market share. The guidelines are designed to allow automakers to choose the emissions-control technologies they will use to be in compliance, EPA administrator Michael Regan said. However, the industry has already largely given up on hydrogen fuel cells to power its vehicles, so EVs figure to be the primary solution.

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“With transportation as the largest source of US climate emissions, these strongest-ever pollution standards for cars solidify America’s leadership in building a clean transportation future and creating good-paying American jobs – all while advancing President Biden’s historic climate agenda,” Regan said. He claimed that the new mandates will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 7 billion tons over the next three decades.

It’s not clear whether the EPA’s estimates include the emissions that will result from increased generation of electricity to charge millions of new EVs. Coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels accounted for about 60% of the nation’s power generation last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration. And as the EPA has acknowledged, studies have shown that the production of EVs and their batteries generates higher emissions than the manufacturing of conventional cars.

Critics of the new mandates have argued that Biden is essentially forcing US consumers to buy cars that many don’t want or can’t afford. “The Biden administration is deciding for Americans which kind of cars they are allowed to buy, rent and drive,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican. She added that the new rules mandate an “unrealistic transition” to EVs and threaten a power grid that is already being weakened by EPA-driven shutdowns of fossil-fueled generators.

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