EPA set to implement unprecedented auto pollution limits • Earth.com
the Biden administration is reportedly planning to implement some of the most stringent auto pollution limits in the world. 

EPA set to implement unprecedented auto pollution limits

In a bid to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Biden administration is reportedly planning to implement some of the most stringent auto pollution limits in the world. 

According to anonymous sources speaking to the New York Times, these new regulations aim to ensure that all-electric vehicles account for as much as 67 percent of new passenger cars sold in the United States by 2032. This ambitious target would far surpass President Biden’s previous goal of having all-electric cars make up half of those sold by 2030.

The move would represent a significant leap for the United States, where only 5.8 percent of vehicles sold in the previous year were all-electric. The proposed regulations would place the US at the forefront of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases generated by cars, a major contributor to climate change. The European Union, Canada, and Britain have already enacted or proposed vehicle emissions standards expected to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

However, the proposed regulation presents a considerable challenge for automakers. Most major car companies have already invested heavily in electric vehicles, but few have committed to the levels envisioned by the Biden administration. 

Manufacturers have encountered supply chain issues that have delayed production, and there is uncertainty as to whether consumers will purchase enough electric vehicles to make up the majority of new car sales within a decade.

Michael S. Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is expected to announce the proposed limits on tailpipe emissions in Detroit on Wednesday. The requirements are intended to ensure that electric cars represent between 54 and 60 percent of all new cars sold in the US by 2030, with that figure rising to 64 to 67 percent by 2032. These figures were shared by sources familiar with the matter who requested anonymity.

To significantly increase the adoption of electric vehicles in the US, other changes would be necessary, including constructing millions of new charging stations, overhauling electric grids to accommodate the power needs of these chargers, and securing supplies of minerals and other materials needed for batteries.

The proposed regulation, which will go through a public comment period and may be altered before becoming final, is likely to face legal challenges and could become an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign. A future administration could undo or weaken the regulation.

John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, commented on the scale of the undertaking, stating: “It is nothing short of a complete transformation of the automotive industrial base and the automotive market.”

Maria Michalos, an EPA spokeswoman, did not confirm the new targets but stated that the agency was working on new standards as directed by the president to “accelerate the transition to a zero-emissions transportation future, protecting people and the planet.”

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act has already helped stimulate demand for electric vehicles by providing up to $7,500 in tax incentives for car buyers, as well as billions in incentives for battery manufacturing and critical mineral processing and mining.

The US is the second biggest polluter on the planet, and transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases generated by the country. Rapidly phasing out gasoline-powered cars in favor of electric models would help President Biden achieve his pledge to cut the country’s emissions in half by 2030 and effectively eliminate them by the middle of the century.

This proposed auto emissions rule is even more demanding than the target laid out by President Biden in a 2021 White House speech, where he called for federal policies to ensure that half of new cars sold would be all-electric by 2030.

More about auto pollution

Auto pollution refers to the harmful emissions generated by vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs), which run primarily on fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. These emissions contribute significantly to air pollution and have a detrimental impact on both the environment and human health.

There are several types of pollutants released by vehicles, which can be broadly categorized into the following:

  1. Greenhouse gases (GHGs): These gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise and leading to climate change. The primary greenhouse gas emitted by automobiles is carbon dioxide (CO2), but other GHGs like methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are also released in smaller quantities. Vehicles with ICEs are responsible for a significant portion of global GHG emissions.
  2. Particulate matter (PM): These are tiny particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. PM emissions from vehicles, particularly diesel engines, can cause respiratory and cardiovascular issues when inhaled. The smallest particles (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, leading to severe health problems and even premature death.
  3. Nitrogen oxides (NOx): NOx emissions result from the high-temperature combustion of fossil fuels in ICEs. These gases contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which is a key component of smog. NOx emissions can cause respiratory problems, exacerbate asthma, and contribute to the formation of acid rain.
  4. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): These are carbon-containing compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature. VOCs are emitted during the combustion and evaporation of fossil fuels. They react with NOx in the presence of sunlight to form ground-level ozone, contributing to smog formation. Some VOCs are also hazardous to human health, causing symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and eye, nose, and throat irritation.
  5. Carbon monoxide (CO): CO is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels in ICEs. When inhaled, CO interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen, leading to headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death in high concentrations.
  6. Sulfur dioxide (SO2): SO2 is released during the combustion of fossil fuels containing sulfur, particularly diesel. It reacts with other substances in the atmosphere to form fine particles, contributing to PM pollution. SO2 can also cause respiratory issues and contribute to the formation of acid rain.

Auto pollution not only has direct effects on human health and the environment but also contributes to secondary problems. For example, ground-level ozone and smog can reduce visibility, acid rain can damage forests and aquatic ecosystems, and climate change can lead to extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and loss of biodiversity.

To mitigate auto pollution, governments and industries are implementing stricter emissions standards, promoting cleaner fuel technologies, and investing in the development and adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and other zero-emission transportation alternatives. These measures aim to reduce the environmental and health impacts of vehicle emissions and contribute to a more sustainable future.


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