States Pressure EPA to Adopt Stricter Vehicle Emissions Standards

EPA announces stricter vehicle emissions standards

A coalition of 22 state attorneys general and a number of US cities, including Washington DC, put pressure on the Biden Administration to implement stricter vehicle emissions standards.

In August, the EPA announced a 10% increase in efficiency standards for 2023, and proposed a light vehicle fuel economy standard of 52 mpg by 2026. But states are saying this may not be enough.

"There is no need to wait to require further deployment of these technologies or to delay the massive economic and public health benefits of reducing these emissions," wrote the 22 state attorneys general.

Why this Matters

The US transportation industry is responsible for 29% of US greenhouse gas emissions, the largest of any sector. States have been leading the way when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of passenger vehicles. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that would phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles in California by 2035; Massachusetts has followed suit.

Additionally, 12 states -- Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia -- signed a Memorandum of Understanding and launched their Transportation and Climate Initiative Program. Pressure by states on the federal government to tighten emissions standards could be a huge step toward meeting Biden's goal to make EVs half of all new vehicles sold in 2030.

Energy Boom: Transportation Climate Initiative, December 21, 2020.

On the Road to Lower Emissions

According to the newly proposed EPA standard, the near 10% reduction would "reduce gasoline consumption by more than 290 million barrels." The estimated cost of switching to electric batteries is between $150 billion and $240 billion through 2025, with fuel cost savings estimated at $120 billion to $250 billion.

But many maintain that these regulations are still too low to reach a 50% retail share of EVs by 2030. In addition to the state coalition, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) suggested the EPA's proposed standard "is too weak," and that "the proposed rule will only lead to an EV market share of 8% by market year 2026."

Fording Ahead

Even auto companies are adopting more stringent requirements -- Ford Motor announced that it would build three battery factories and an electric truck plant in the United States over the next four years to meet its goal of ending production of internal-combustion vehicles by 2035.

Environmental organizations and the Biden administration alike are praising the announcement, and calling it a sign of promise for the EV industry and the national shift to clean energy. Still, the Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp emphasized the continued need for government support, "If anyone was still wondering whether the electric vehicle revolution is real, Ford emphatically answered that question today ... What we need now is smart policy and investment from Washington to accelerate it..."

Vox: How America can leave fossil fuels behind, in one chart, September 10, 2020.