The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today announced a landmark set of pollution rules that could trigger an electric vehicle revolution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the current rules, electric vehicles will be able to be responsible for 67% of the new US passenger car sales by 2032. There could be more gains for larger cars, which is a significant achievement for a nation where transportation is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“These actions will accelerate the ongoing transition to a clean-vehicle future, tackle the climate crisis and improve our air quality for communities across the country,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said at a press conference.
The regulations that are currently in draft form and awaiting public comment will apply to cars manufactured in 2027 between 2027 and 2032. They could reduce the average emissions of new passenger cars by more than 50% compared to the current standard. But would the plan work, and what impact will it have on the climate?
CAN THE UNITED STATES MAKE ENOUGH ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN TIME?
The United States has one of the biggest vehicles around the globe, so one of the questions is whether it’s feasible to increase the number of electric vehicles within several years. There are challenges to building charging infrastructure, increasing production capacity for electric cars, and getting people to change their lifestyles.
However, the regulations are coming into an environment that is already geared for change and innovation, according to Margo Oge, who was the one to lead the formulation of similar regulations for cars as the head of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality under the former President Barack Obama.
In particular, the infrastructure bill passed through Congress in 2021, as well as an enormous spending bill referred to by the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022 and 2022, will channel federal funds into charging infrastructure as well as credit for tax-payers as well as for car manufacturers as well as batteries that upgrade or create new facilities.
In spite of the EPA’s regulations, electric vehicles could be responsible for over 50% of all new US vehicles in 2030 in a study published by the International Council on Clean Transportation, which is a non-profit research organization located in Washington DC, and the consulting firm Energy Innovation Policy and Technology located in San Francisco, California. The EPA rules will help solve the lingering questions regarding how federal incentives will apply as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, says Robbie Orvis, a senior director at Energy Innovation: “It cements current trends into place, and creates a much stronger investment climate.”
WHAT ABOUT SECURING RAW MATERIALS?
Cobalt and lithium are required to make modern batteries, as it is the Biden administration is encouraging businesses to purchase these components from countries with Free Trade Agreements that are in place with the US. Biden administration also enables local manufacturing to ensure supply chains are secure and decrease dependency on China. Certain tax credits are offered only if the production of vehicles and batteries takes location in the United States or if the minerals used in manufacturing are from free-trade partners like Chile, Australia, Canada, or Mexico. However, as of now, there aren’t any obvious show-stoppers with regard to the availability of essential minerals needed for electric car batteries, as per the energy company BloombergNEF.
“The investments are there, and these nations can theoretically provide sufficient supplies,” says Evelina Stoikou, an energy storage analysis analyst with BloombergNEF, which is located in New York City. However, she warns that the demand from Europe and other regions is likely to grow, and it is crucial that the United States strengthen its international alliances.
WHAT IMPACT WOULD THE RULES HAVE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?
The preliminary estimate by the EPA is that the rules will cut carbon emissions by about 10 billion tonnes over the coming three years. This is more than twice what the United States’ emissions last year, and more than one-quarter of the world total. “The administration is going to make history if indeed, at the end of the day, they finalized these new standards,” Oge says. Oge. “I’m really hopeful.”
COULD THE COURTS CHALLENGE THE RULES?
US courts have ruled against environmental regulations in the past and the rules proposed could be challenged. One thing that is they have in their favor is the fact that they adhere to rules which the EPA has used for decades to manage pollutants from cars along with other causes. Instead of dictating changes to technology it is establishing pollution standards for automobile manufacturers. The limits can be met by using current technologies, and it’s the responsibility of the auto industry to determine how they can meet the standards, according to Chester France, a former EPA official who is currently consultant for the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group with its headquarters within New York City. “I would fully expect those standards to be legally durable.”