The Proposed New Fuel Economy Standards: Quintessentially Bidenesque - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Proposed New Fuel Economy Standards: Quintessentially Bidenesque

Last month, President Joe Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a regulation that was universally agreed upon as the “toughest-ever vehicle emissions standards” for automobiles. Specifically, according to the EPA itself, MY (Model Year) 2032 “standards are projected to result in a 56% reduction in projected fleet average greenhouse gas emissions … compared to the existing MY 2026 standards.” The only car manufacturer that currently meets that standard is Tesla, which, of course, only makes electric-powered vehicles (EVs).

This is a naked, lawless power grab that demonstrates an utter contempt for our constitutional order.

According to NPR, “The overarching goal [of this proposal] is not just cleaner cars, but the transformation of the auto industry: The EPA would essentially impose regulatory penalties on companies that do not move quickly enough toward electric cars.” Furthermore, “[t]he new standards are so strict that, according to the EPA’s estimates, up to 67% of new vehicles sold in 2032 may have to be electric in order for carmakers to be in compliance.” For comparison’s sake, only 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. last year were EVs. To increase EV production more than tenfold in a decade is breathtakingly ambitious, if not hallucinatory, given challenges to the supply chains for batteries.

I suppose we should commend the EPA and NPR for their candor in giving us the unvarnished truth about the proposal’s intent. However, before it becomes policy, we should ask: Does the EPA have the right to force the automobile industry to so radically restructure? The short answer is no.

Last summer, the Supreme Court issued a momentous ruling in West Virginia v. EPA. The court slapped down the EPA’s attempts to use regulatory edicts to dictate what energy sources electric utilities would be permitted to use to generate electricity. The court held that no duly passed law had conferred upon the EPA the vast power to radically transform an entire industry. Instead, the court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its statutory authority and arrogated to itself a power that, according to the U.S. Constitution, rightly belongs to Congress.

So here we are, less than a year after West Virginia v. EPA, and the EPA is attempting the exact same power play: radically transforming a major industry via regulatory decree. What brazen defiance of the Supreme Court! Biden and the EPA are basically telling the court to take West Virginia v. EPA and shove it. How eager they are to violate the constitutional separation of powers and disrespect the Constitution itself. This is a naked, lawless power grab that demonstrates an utter contempt for our constitutional order.

The proposed EPA standards are problematical on economic grounds, too. EVs already are significantly more costly on average than are cars powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs). If EV production increases tenfold or more, as is the goal of the EPA’s emissions proposal, such an abrupt increase in demand for the various minerals used in manufacturing EV batteries (cobalt, copper, nickel, graphite, lithium, rare earth minerals) will cause their prices to rise (some quite dramatically), thereby pushing the sticker price for EVs even higher. At the same time, if the emissions standards succeed in their goal of greatly diminishing production of ICE cars even as Americans continue to prefer them, then the price of ICE vehicles likely will soar as demand greatly exceeds the government-restricted supply. In other words, expect car prices — of both the EV and ICE varieties — to rise sharply in coming years. The American public has become reacquainted with the pain of inflation over the last couple of years, and now Team Biden is pursuing policies likely to jack up car prices significantly. Thanks for nothing, Joe!

Of course, we can expect Democrats to resort once again to their favorite strategy: bestowing economic benefits on voters. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing politicians talk about granting large subsidies to enable more Americans to afford the purchase of EVs. Up until now, Dems have engaged in the hypocritical practice of giving tax credits to the predominantly upper-income citizens who have been buying EVs while simultaneously bleating about “economic justice” and “soaking the rich.” Realistically, the only way millions of middle-class Americans will be able to afford the millions of EVs that Team Biden desires would be with tax credits or some other form of government subsidy. Remember that Biden already has called for $17 trillion more federal debt over the next decade. Well, providing subsidies for 10 times as many EVs 10 years from now will surely help him achieve that dubious goal.

One economically rational path to take would be to conduct a cost/benefit analysis of such a radical remaking of the domestic automobile industry. The EPA likely would either drag its heels on conducting such a study or rush through a bogus “study” where benefits of carbon dioxide are ignored, or costs are redefined as benefits. The notion that shifting to EVs will result in a net reduction in global CO2 emissions is erroneous. According to physicist Mark P. Mills, China is the dominant producer of batteries for EVs, and since the Chinese electric grid that powers the manufacture of EV batteries is 70 percent coal-fueled, ramping up production of EVs will result in a net increase in global CO2 emissions.

Speaking of China: EV manufacturers are dependent on China for a large share of inputs. Thus, the EPA’s policy proposal would increase the dependency of our automobile-manufacturing industry on China. To adopt such a policy at a time of rising tensions between our two countries is geopolitically myopic. (If you want to go farther and say that such a policy is stupid, if not treasonous, be my guest.) From the point of view of national self-interest, becoming more dependent on China just doesn’t make sense — especially when we could achieve energy dependence so easily by liberating domestic fossil fuel producers to supply all the Btu we need.

Finally, consider the political implications and ramifications of the EPA proposal. Government central planners, in fanatical pursuit of their “green new deal,” want to deprive Americans of their freedom of choice in the automobile market. It doesn’t matter to them if Americans prefer the conveniences of ICE cars — like greater driving range (especially on frigid days) and needing less time to refuel than to recharge. The green elite in Washington want to preempt that choice. They don’t care what kind of a vehicle you prefer. They think that they know what’s best for you, and that you should settle for what they have mandated.

Also, since renewable energy has made blackouts and brownouts increasingly common in parts of the country (Hello, California) many Americans who value their freedom of movement don’t relish the prospect of wondering when a blackout will prevent them from recharging their EVs. Nor do they want to buy autos that have kill switches installed on them, as is stipulated (starting in 2026) in Biden’s November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Who wants a car that government can render totally useless at any moment?

Look at it also from the automobile manufacturer’s side: The EPA proposes to fine them if they “do not move quickly enough toward electric cars.” Obliterated is the freedom of private companies to make what consumers want. This is economic fascism, with Biden playing the role of Il Duce. One wonders if the long-term goal here is the outright nationalization of the entire automaking industry (i.e., outright socialism).

Summing up, the Biden/EPA proposal to transform the automobile industry by capping CO2 emissions from cars is constitutionally illegitimate, economically impoverishing, geopolitically self-destructive, and politically illiberal. Bingo! The proposal checks all the boxes that epitomize the socialistic policies of today’s Democratic Party.


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