The Biden administration recently proposed strict new tailpipe emission regulations, cutting allowable emission levels so low that Americans seeking transportation options will have little choice but to purchase an electric vehicle. Proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the extreme new standards are predicted to force EV sales to jump from 5.8 percent of total American new car sales in 2022 to over 67 percent by 2032.
EPA officials claim the standards are technology-neutral and leave compliance pathways up to automobile manufacturers. However, the drastic reductions have been described by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation as requiring “a massive, 100-year change to the U.S. industrial base and the way Americans drive.”
Despite the auto industry’s buy-in to the EV agenda, Biden’s emissions reduction plan would still require a nearly Soviet level of government influence over the entire American economy. By executive fiat, the Biden administration is mandating the restructuring of transportation, just as it has attempted to restructure the American energy industry.
The EPA plan will force American drivers to buy a product that sales data and public polling indicate they don’t want. Goldman Sachs reports that government spending on green subsidies for renewable energy and EVs could cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion between 2022 and 2031. Despite these lavish outlays, total sales of Ford F-Series pickups almost matched total EV sales of all makes and models in 2022.
American consumers clearly aren’t convinced. “Only 19% of U.S. adults say it’s ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely they would purchase an electric vehicle,” according to polling by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. Imposing regulations that will effectively force sales of electric vehicles to balloon from about 6 percent to 67 percent in a decade is nonsensical.
Of course, these aren’t the only problems arising from the EPA mandates. There are a host of limitations standing in the way of implementing Biden’s plan.
It’s delusional to think that we are producing sufficient supplies of metals and minerals to meet this level of growth in demand, especially when the government refuses to permit new domestic mines. Just last January, the Biden administration canceled two federal mineral leases that would have produced copper and nickel — both essential components of EVs — in Minnesota.
Mixing domestic permit refusals with increasingly strict mandates means automakers must rely on China and other foreign nations for the materials needed to manufacture EVs and their batteries. But it’s not clear that senior Biden administration officials are even aware of the stresses they impose by mandating EVs while restricting domestic mineral production.
When questioned by former Interior Secretary and now Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke during congressional hearings, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland seemed largely unaware of any but the most rudimentary details associated with the domestic production of strategic minerals. Haaland was able to do little more than repeatedly respond “Thank you for the information” when pressed by Zinke on her understanding of the strategic value of domestic mining for critical minerals.
Range anxiety concerns also compound the problems with Biden’s mandates because Americans can’t rely on electric vehicles to get them where they need to go. Even worse, Biden’s green energy policies aimed at propping up reliably unreliable energy sources like wind and solar are actively designing instability into the very electric grid that will be required to charge tens of millions of new EVs. Grid watchdogs warn of “insufficient electricity supplies during peak” conditions and place the blame for the growing fragility of the grid on the rushed and “disorderly retirement” of reliable fossil and nuclear power plants.
If all these limitations on Biden’s plans weren’t sufficient, we have more than sufficient reason to question whether the instability, costs, and trouble are even needed. The New York Times admits the Biden plan will impose “some of the most stringent auto pollution limits in the world.” But EPA reporting indicates that “between 1970 and 2021, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10, SO2, NOx, VOCs, CO and Pb) dropped by 78%.” The EPA also reports that “greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 (after accounting for sequestration from the land sector) were 16.3% below 2005 levels.”
The Biden administration’s plans to impose these strict new government controls over the American economy and consumer choice are pointless and intrusive. They will foist unreliable, expensive, and unnecessary transportation options on American consumers whether they want them or not, and they will do so to achieve, at best, questionable environmental goals.
Jason Hayes is director of energy and environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.