Biden mileage rule to exceed Obama climate goal

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President Biden is proposing a return to aggressive Obama-era vehicle mileage standards over five years, according to industry and government officials briefed on the plan.

Biden will then aim for even tougher anti-pollution rules afterward to forcefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nudge 40% of U.S. drivers into electric vehicles by decade’s end.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation proposal reflects Biden's pledge to attack climate change but also balance concerns of the auto industry.

The industry would prefer a slower transition to zero-emission electric vehicles.

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The regulatory action would tighten tailpipe emissions standards rolled back under former President Trump. 

The proposed rules are expected to be released as early as next week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The proposed rules would begin with the 2023 car model year, applying California's 2019 framework agreement on emissions standards reached with Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo, according to three of the officials.

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Environmental groups said Tuesday that the proposal did not go far enough.

Environmental groups said Tuesday that the Biden administration’s mileage proposal did not go far enough.

"The world isn’t the same as it was in 2012 when President Obama signed the clean car standards," said Katherine Garcia, acting director of Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign. "Millions of Americans have had to swelter in heat waves, evacuate their homes in the face of onrushing wildfires, or bail out flooded homes."

Biden has set a goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030. 

Requirements ramp up in 2025 to Obama-era levels of a 5% annual increase in the mileage standard and a similar cut in emissions. They then go higher than that for model year 2026, one of the people said, perhaps in the range of 6% or 7%.

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Neither EPA nor the Transportation Department would comment on the proposal.

Under Obama, automakers were required to raise fuel economy 5% per year from 2021 through 2026. But under Trump, that was reduced to 1.5% annually. In 2019, five automakers — Ford, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and later Volvo — split with competitors and reached a deal with California to raise mileage by 3.7% per year.

Trump later repealed California’s legal authority to set its own standards, which the Biden administration is moving to restore.

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It wasn’t clear whether the Biden administration would restore credits for selling electric vehicles, but that is likely since EVs are a cornerstone of its plan to fight climate change. Biden’s nearly $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes 500,000 new charging stations for electric cars and trucks, and he has proposed tax credits and rebates to help spur sales.

Fully electric vehicles represent just 2% of new vehicle sales in the U.S., but analysts expect that to rise rapidly in coming years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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