What Biden’s Drastic New Emissions Regulations Mean for Your Next Adventuremobile
Sixty-seven percent of all new vehicles will need to be electric by 2032
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The Biden Administration announced a proposal today aimed at dramatically reducing total emissions produced by passenger vehicles nationwide. If it goes forward, and if the regulations are able to survive political and legal challenges—which are major ifs—this could prove a watershed moment for the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). What does it mean for you, the outdoorsy car buyer?
Rule-making, especially at the federal level, get’s really complicated really quick. So let’s start by cutting through the jargon and explaining what’s being proposed.
Biden’s Clean-Transportation Future
An existing rule put in place by the Biden Administration in 2022 already requires automakers to boost the average fuel economy achieved by passenger vehicles up to 49 miles per gallon by 2026 (currently, it’s around 25.7). That can be achieved through a diverse mix of electric vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids, and just plain more-efficient cars.
The newly proposed rules would then require automakers to further reduce annual pollution—including both greenhouse gases and emissions harmful to human health—created by all of their vehicles by 13 percent annually, beginning in 2027 and running through 2032, for a total of a 56 percent reduction in fleet emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that, in order to meet that target, 67 percent of all passenger vehicles produced by 2032 will need to be electric.
The EPA also estimates that 50 percent of new medium-duty vehicles—buses, garbage trucks, and the like—will need be electric by 2032. And, 25 percent of long-haul freight trucks and 35 percent of short-haul freight trucks.
It’s hard to overstate the scale of what’s being proposed here. Just 5.8 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States in 2022 were EVs. Between now and 2055, the EPA estimates that Biden’s rule will eliminate close to 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to twice the total carbon emitted by entire U.S. economy in 2022.
While the EPA is not expressly banning internal combustion vehicles, as is being done in California and the European Union, or even directing automakers to choose any specific technology to reduce emissions, nothing short of a wholesale pivot towards electrification will be able to reach the proposed targets.
Who’s going to pay for this? Well, automakers of course, which are likely to pass costs on to consumers. The EPA estimates that the rule will add $1,200 to the cost of the average new car. But, by reducing not only fuel and maintenance costs, but also healthcare impacts over time, the agency also estimates that the average consumer will save $12,000 over the lifetime of that average new car.
The net economic benefit? Between 2027 and 2055, the EPA estimates benefits from passenger vehicles alone will exceed costs by $850 billion to $1.6 trillion, while medium- and heavy-duty trucks going electric will add another $180 to $320 billion to the national economy.
The EPA hopes to finalize the standards in early 2024, and it will certainly meet legal challenges, but the Biden Administration says it’s taking steps to protect the new emissions standards from meddling by any hypothetical future Republican President.
What to Expect
What’s all this mean for you and me? Well, this shift would involve nothing less than a whole-economy pivot towards electric vehicles, and the infrastructure needed to support them that will spread into virtually every economic sector. Automakers will need to spend most, if not all of their research and development budgets on electric models. Nationwide and local energy grids will need to expand capacities to meet the demand created by the majority of Americans driving EVs. And the job market will also undergo massive changes as the need for workers to make and maintain internal combustion engines, and produce, refine, and ship oil is replaced by battery manufacturing and recycling, clean energy production, and home and commercial charger installation. The Biden Administration says it hopes the rule will reduce imports of foreign oil by 20 billion barrels between now and 2055.
All of that is going to mean the politicians and media outlets funded by fossil-fuel interests are going to attack. Expect to see a new front in the culture wars expand rapidly as polluters throw what are now going to be ever-shrinking budgets at desperate attempts to stop this from eliminating their ability to profit by destroying our planet. The difference between the cultural identity of an American who likes guzzling gasoline and one who doesn’t will never feel greater.
Of course, all this also means that, for the vast majority of Americans, the next cars or trucks or trailers we’re going to buy will probably be EVs. And as the numbers of us who own them increases, and the geographic areas in which they’re prevalent expands, many of the barriers or frustrations involved with driving an electric vehicle will disappear under the sheer weight of market forces.
Just yesterday, for example, Walmart announced that it plans to build EV charging stations across virtually all of its locations, nationwide. Higher volumes of EVs will lower their prices. Wider adoption will eliminate the unfamiliarity of new technology.
And maybe, just maybe, this will help ensure Earth remains capable of supporting human life. At least it would be the biggest step in that direction America has taken.