With only days left until the comment period closes for the Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial tailpipe emissions proposed rule, a diverse group of politicians and industry representatives are bringing attention to various negative effects that the rule would impose on consumers.
The Biden EPA and National Highway and Transportation Safety Agency are together proposing new tailpipe emissions standards that would mandate electric vehicles make up at least 50 percent of all new vehicles sold by 2030. As the American Petroleum Institute explained, though, this is essentially a ban:
“This deeply flawed proposal is a major step toward a ban on the vehicles Americans rely on. As proposed, this rule will hurt consumers with higher costs and greater reliance on unstable foreign supply chains.”
When EPA’s proposal was first announced, Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners (TIPRO) and six other energy trade groups argued that EPA and NHTSA would be going beyond their congressional authority to enact rules that force auto manufacturers and consumers to shift to electric vehicles.
Concerns aren’t just limited to the energy industry – lawmakers and industry groups representing American auto manufacturers, farmers, and truckers have already written in opposition to EPA’s proposed rule ahead of the public comment period closing on July 5th.
This broad set of stakeholders argues that by using vehicle emissions standards to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles, the EPA could reshape the nation’s vehicle fleet and the general economy, with many downstream consequences including reduced consumer choice and unequal economic impacts. Commenters also challenged the EPA’s constitutional authority to enact a rule that is clearly biased towards one type of technology and suggested that a technology-neutral approach may also lead to better emissions reductions.
The effect of these proposed regulations – a forcible transition to electric vehicles – draws parallels to the Clean Power Plan’s “generation shifting” provision, which was ruled unconstitutional in West Virginia v. EPA.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) submitted a comment on behalf of the Western States Trucking Association and the Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition, arguing that the proposed tailpipe emissions rule would “unnecessarily harm consumers” and “devastate trucking,” in addition to posing a potential constitutional violation:
“[Nothing] allows the EPA to regulate in a way that pushes the use of electric vehicles over internal-combustion vehicles. The EPA did the same thing when it tried to force power producers to adopt so-called clean energy solutions through the Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court rightly rejected.
“In effect, the HD Tailpipe Rule will force truckers to spend substantial financial and human resources to comply with ultra vires government regulations that fail to make even a marginal dent in global issue of changing climate.” (emphasis added)
Economic Impact and Consumer Choice
As the EPA itself admits, the proposed tailpipe emissions rule would also raise costs and restrict consumer choice, according to reporting from National Review Capital Matters:
“…agency officials predict that it would raise costs by around $1,200 per vehicle and reduce the overall number of cars sold through 2032.”
Of course, the EPA’s EV goals don’t reflect consumers’ preferences for varied and affordable vehicle options. In their public comment on the proposed rule, the National Center for Public Policy Research and the Free Enterprise Project pointed out the mismatch between the proposed rules and consumer demand, arguing that regulatory agencies are forcing a product transition that isn’t even desired:
“According to reports, the Proposed Rules are so strict that for automakers to comply, up to 67 percent of new vehicles sold in 2032 would have to be electric. But this requirement stands in stark contrast to the reality of the current electric vehicle market. Only 5.8 percent of new vehicle sales last year were electric vehicles.
“According to a March 2023 Gallup survey, 41 percent of U.S. adults unequivocally say they would not buy an electric vehicle, while 43 percent stated that they might consider buying an electric vehicle in the future. Only 12 percent of those surveyed reported seriously considering purchasing an electric vehicle, and only 4 percent already own one.” (emphasis added)
Ironically, a mandatory EV push may even cause consumers to hold onto older and higher-emitting vehicles for longer. On behalf of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), Jeffrey Weber, a Toyota and Lincoln dealer from Dubuque, IA, expressed concern that these rules would drastically decrease demand for new vehicles, hurting automobile manufacturers and salespeople:
“Mandates that make new vehicles so expensive or otherwise impractical that customers hold onto their existing vehicles or buy used vehicles will only delay, rather than accelerate, fleet turnover.”
An all-electric strategy is not the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. National Farmers Union President Rob Larew, who represents approximately 200,000 family farmers, pointed out that the proposed rule gives unfair advantages to vehicles powered by electricity over other lower-emissions alternatives, like biofuels, that may have even lower emissions on average when upstream and life cycle emissions are taken into consideration.
Disproportionate Impact on Rural Areas
Two Democratic Members of Congress representing rural districts, Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) and Mary Peltola (D-AK), argued in their comment letter that the EPA regulations aren’t paired with a plan to ensure adequate electric charging infrastructure across the country, particularly in rural areas. Reps. Gluesenkamp Perez and Peltola wrote:
“We are concerned the EPA, along with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Energy (DOE), have not done enough work to ensure rural communities will have the necessary charging infrastructure in place to make widespread EV adoption possible. The imposition of additional regulations in the auto market without key infrastructure investments will reduce consumer choice, which is a recipe for disaster in rural America.” (emphasis added)
The overly prescriptive approach risks additional unintended consequences that would hit rural areas the hardest. A joint comment letter from the Transportation Departments of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming warned the EPA that rapid reductions in the sale of liquid fuels due to an EV mandate would deplete the highway trust fund, which is used to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges. The state transportation departments also explained:
“EVs are not well suited for all of our nation’s climates, especially in states that are rural, are at high altitude, or both.”
Bottom Line: The EPA’s proposed tailpipe emissions rules are drawing harsh opposition from a wide range of stakeholders. Farmers, energy trade associations, Democratic members of Congress, and others have called out the flaws in EPA’s backdoor attempt to force a nation-wide fleet transition to electric vehicles at the expense of consumer choice.
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