Biden boosts fuel-economy standards to fight climate change

New rules are most ambitious pollution standards ever set for passenger cars and light trucks

The US announced it will increase standards for emissions from cars and lorries, and implement the new rules over three years from 2023. AFP
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In a major step to fight climate change, the Biden administration is raising vehicle mileage standards to significantly reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

A final rule being issued on Monday would raise mileage standards starting in the 2023 model year, reaching a projected industry-wide target of 40 miles per gallon by 2026 – 25 per cent higher than a rule finalised by Donald Trump's administration last year and 5 per cent higher than a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency in August.

EPA administrator Michael Regan called the rule “a giant step forward” in delivering on President Joe Biden’s climate agenda “while paving the way towards an all-electric, zero-emissions transportation future″.

The move came a day after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin delivered a potentially fatal blow to Mr Biden's $2 trillion social and environmental policy bill, jeopardising Democrats' agenda and infuriating the White House. The West Virginia senator said he could not support the sweeping bill, which includes a host of climate proposals, saying it was too expensive and could spark inflation and expand the growing federal debt.

The mileage rules being announced on Monday are the most ambitious tailpipe pollution standards ever set for passenger cars and light lorries. The standards raise mileage goals set by the Trump administration that would achieve only 32 miles per gallon in 2026. Mr Biden had set a goal of 38 miles per gallon in August.

The standards also will help expand the market share of zero emissions vehicles, the administration said, with a goal of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles reaching 17 per cent of new vehicles sold in 2026.

EVs and plug-in hybrids are expected to have about 7 per cent market share in 2023.

The EPA said the rule would not only slow climate change, but also improve public health by reducing air pollution and lower costs for drivers through improved fuel efficiency.

Mr Biden has set a goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030 as he pushes a history-making shift in the US from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles.

While ambitious, the new standards provide adequate lead time for auto manufacturers to comply with at reasonable costs, the administration said. The EPA’s analysis shows the industry can comply with the final standards with modest increases in the numbers of electric vehicles entering the fleet.

The EPA called the new rule critical to address climate change. Transport is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, making up 29 per cent of all emissions. Within the transport sector, passenger cars and lorries are the largest contributor, accounting for 58 per cent of all transport-related emissions and 17 per cent of overall US carbon emissions.

The new rules would begin with the 2023 car model year and increase emissions reductions year by year through model year 2026. The rule accelerates the rate of emissions reductions to between 5 and 10 per cent each year from 2023 through 2026, the EPA said, far higher than under previous rules.

Updated: December 20, 2021, 6:32 PM