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Biden’s Proposed Car Standards Come Far Short of Undoing Damage of Trump Rollback

August 5, 2021
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Washington, DC—The Biden administration today proposed to decrease the emissions of new passenger vehicles, but it did not go far enough to make up for the extra greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the prior administration’s rollback of clean car standards. The standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would at best recapture only 67% of the emission cuts that would have occurred under the prior Obama-era rules, according to calculations by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

President Biden has set ambitious 2030 climate goals, but to undo the damage caused by the weakened Trump standards, his new proposal needed to significantly exceed targets set by President Obama. His proposal falls far short of what is needed to regain lost ground. But the administration still has the ability to be more ambitious with the final rule. Tackling passenger vehicle emissions is crucial as transportation is the top emitter of GHG in the United States.

“We need to not just catch up to the Obama standards but make up for emissions caused by the Trump rollback. We have to fully reclaim the emissions reductions from the Obama standards if we are to have any chance of meeting our long-term climate goals. This proposal doesn’t take advantage of how far electric and hybrid vehicles have advanced in the market. We’re in a very different place than we were in 2012 and the rules need to reflect what we know is possible now,” said Peter Huether, senior research analyst for transportation at ACEEE.

The proposed standard includes a one-time 10% increase in stringency for model year 2023, followed by 5% per year increases in stringency through model year 2026. However, it maintains many flexibilities that reduce the overall ambition and emissions reductions. The GHG rules would bring us only to the gasoline equivalent of 51 miles per gallon (MPG) in model year 2026 compared to the 59 MPG equivalent we need to recover the Obama emissions reductions. 59 mpg equivalent is the minimum target needed to reestablish momentum in the United States auto industry toward greater efficiency and electrification of our passenger vehicles.

The proposal also extends counterproductive giveaways to automakers for producing electric vehicles (EVs). Treating EVs as entirely zero-emission vehicles—which they are not—and giving them extra weight when calculating an automaker’s average efficiency will only increase overall emissions.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit research organization, develops policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change. Its independent analysis advances investments, programs, and behaviors that use energy more effectively and help build an equitable clean energy future.

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