A senior Senate Democrat insists on U.S. environmental standards following a deal brokered by California with five automakers and then setting targets to end sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, a target that goes beyond President Joe Biden’s climate plan.
In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency late Thursday, Delaware Senator Tom Carper, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, said the government must act resolutely against the automotive sector in order to realize Biden’s plan to reduce American greenhouse gas emissions by halfway through 2030 .
Carper noted that the industry is already moving towards zero-emission electric vehicles and that it is important to change course now to ensure that the US positions itself as a top player in auto manufacturing against foreign competitors like China.
According to Carper’s proposal, the EPA would apply the 2019 California Framework Agreement on emissions standards reached between Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo. This agreement would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7% per year from 2022 to 2026 and increase fuel consumption requirements by a similar amount.
After that, the administration would have to have much stricter standards to meet the goals set out in Carper’s plan. Half of all new vehicles sold would be electric by 2030, and sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars would be banned by 2035. Under the agreement with California, automakers would receive loans to meet requirements to sell zero-emission batteries for electricity and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
“Unless the US has solid policies that encourage zero-emission vehicle use, coupled with appropriate incentives, we risk losing our automotive jobs and industry leadership to other nations and suffering unnecessary public health effects from pollution,” Carper wrote .
Carper’s push comes as the Biden administration takes steps to reverse former President Donald Trump’s drive to end California’s ability to set its own standards for exhaust pipe pollution for cars. This move could pave the way for the US to broker an industry-wide deal that follows the California accord, though reaching such an accord faces challenges.
However, experts say that in less than 15 years it will be difficult to replace the 279 million passenger cars on US roads, most of which burn gasoline, with electric vehicles. The average US vehicle is now nearly 12 years old so they will be on the roads longer than they have been in the past. And without immediate change, the number of gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to grow. IHS Markit forecasts 284 million by 2025.
Every year automakers in the US sell approximately 17 million new vehicles, most of them powered by gasoline. If every new vehicle sold were electric as of today, it would take more than 16 years to replace all gasoline vehicles.