The United States can begin to take the biggest step of any country in the fight against climate change. The President must establish tough rules that reinstate and then tighten the tailpipe emissions standards that President Donald Trump rejected while setting us on the right track to gradually introduce a new fleet of all-electric cars by 2030 .
Biden’s actions will shape greenhouse gas levels in the United States – and what we drive – for generations, and send a message to the world that we are serious in our fight against what he called the “threat.” existential ”of global warming.
Every gallon of gasoline we burn, whether in a hybrid vehicle or a Hummer, emits 25 pounds of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas that is most responsible for global warming. Transportation spits out more of this main pollutant of global warming than even power plants.
So, we cannot tame climate change without aggressively controlling the gas mileage and emissions of SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans and cars.
Nine years ago, automakers and President Barack Obama struck a deal to improve gas mileage and emissions by 5% per year. Automakers added cost-effective efficiency technology they had on their shelves, such as improved engines, transmissions, and aerodynamics, to keep their vehicles consuming and polluting less. Fully enforced, by 2025 the standards would have delivered a new fleet of cars averaging 36 miles per gallon, up from 24.9 mpg today. In addition, these standards would have eliminated six billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere while saving consumers $ 1 trillion in gasoline.
But in 2017, four days after Trump took office, the CEOs of the automakers returned to the White House, demanding that the very rules they negotiated with his predecessor be overturned. Trump complied, effectively freezing mileage and emissions at 2020 levels for the next six years – and giving the country a fleet averaging no more than 29 mpg, costing consumers more at the pump. As a first step, with his decisions to come, President Biden must restore the standards of the Obama era.
Manufacturers are profiting from Trump’s setback. They are deploying a staggering number of SUVs and other gas guzzling light trucks and applying monster mark-ups – for up to $ 30,000 and more on some. Most of these trucks carry little more than a Starbucks latte. Some automakers say they could spend some of those big profits on making electric vehicles. But so far, most automakers have made plenty of promises, but only a relative handful of EVs compared to the 17 million gasoline-powered cars, vans and SUVs they produce each year.
Despite their big talk about an electric future, automakers spend a huge chunk of their roughly $ 14 billion annual marketing budget pushing gas-guzzling trucks onto consumers. Ford has sold just 11,000 electric vehicles in the 12 months ending April – and 800,000 gasoline-powered F-150 pickup trucks in 2020. Still, the company says it predicts global production in 2030 will be 40 percent. electric.
With its track record, the new electric F-150 which he nicknamed “the Lightning” is perhaps more Tinkerbell than Thor. General Motors’ statement that it “aspires to eliminate tailpipe emissions” by 2035 and become carbon neutral by 2040 falls far short of a commitment to stop production of gasoline-powered vehicles. We will not rebuild a better bet on the hopes of the automakers.
Last summer, the California Air Resources Board struck a weak deal with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW and Volvo that Dave Cooke, a senior vehicle analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told us he didn’t. Would cut emissions by only half of Obama’s rules. . Car manufacturers have taken it as a model for the rest of the country.
Don’t be fooled. Applied nationwide to all automakers, the mileage and pollution savings would be so small that they would extend Trump’s climatic reach for most of Biden’s tenure.
Disguising these loophole-ridden Swiss cheese rules into a revived Obama plan would leave Biden far from his central – and crucial – climate goal: to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to near zero by 2050.
We will not push back the climate catastrophe with nothing less than bold action. We have no choice but to phase out internal combustion engines in new vehicles and the pollution they emit by 2030.
Do the math: Many SUVs and other light trucks and cars sold in 2030 will last 20 years. They will still be driving in 2050. Carbon dioxide persists for hundreds of years. So, with the invisible and ubiquitous tenacity of Lewis Carrol’s Cheshire Cat, pollution will pollute our atmosphere – and overheat the globe – until the 22nd century.
Reducing emissions and increasing gasoline consumption by 7% per year – two percentage points more than the companies agreed ten years ago – will ensure that the tens of millions of gasoline vehicles built by 2030 do not prevent us not to protect the climate.
This is auto mechanics, not science fiction. Almost a decade ago, automakers began to meet Obama’s 5% annual improvements by using more efficient transmissions; safe, lightweight, high strength, aerodynamic steel and aluminum designs. If they fully deploy these and other efficiency technologies in all of their vehicles, they can achieve the imperative gains of 7% while gradually introducing electric vehicles. Here’s a bonus: the technology will save more than it costs.
If Biden takes bold action now – increasing gas mileage, closing loopholes and plugging in – he may make history as a president who has tackled the growing climate crisis. The challenge of global warming demands no less.