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EPA issues new rule to curb tailpipe pollution, fight climate change

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The Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule today aimed at reducing tailpipe pollution from cars and light-duty trucks — an effort by President Joe Biden to return to the fuel economy standards put in place by Barack Obama nearly a decade ago.

Under the rule, passenger vehicles would be required to achieve an average of 55 miles of travel per gallon of gasoline (mpg) by 2026 — slightly over Obama’s goal of 54 mpg, but a major increase over the 38-mpg rule put in place by President Donald Trump. The EPA estimates the new standard would prevent the release of 3.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide through 2050 and will save car owners $420 billion in fuel costs.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan called it “the most ambitious vehicle pollution standards for greenhouse gases ever established,” adding, “The standards are achievable, affordable, and will deliver a significant pollution reduction.”

The new fuel economy standards are the latest effort by the Biden Administration to reduce air pollution in the broader fight against climate change. Earlier this month, Biden signed an executive order directing the federal government to spend billions of dollars to purchase electric vehicles, upgrade federal buildings, and leverage the power of the government to shift to cleaner forms of electricity.

The administration will need to rely more heavily on executive actions to fight climate change after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) came out against Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, which would have enacted a slate of environmental initiatives.

The new rule, which takes effect in 60 days, applies to vehicle model years 2023 to 2026. They’re seen as a return of Obama’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules from 2012 that required automakers to manufacture more efficient, less polluting vehicles. Those rules were rolled back under President Donald Trump, who sought to weaken the rule and allow the auto industry to make dirtier cars.

Advocates applauded the new rule as a victory for the environment and public health. “Climate change impacts the health of every American — now and for every future generation,” American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer said in a statement. “These greenhouse gas standards are a critical steppingstone to climate and clean air benefits that are desperately needed in communities throughout the United States.”

The auto industry, meanwhile, signaled that more will need to be done to help spur increases in electric vehicle sales, including tax breaks such as those included in the Build Back Better plan that now looks uncertain.

“Achieving the goals of this final rule will undoubtedly require enactment of supportive governmental policies,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which lobbies for the auto industry, “including consumer incentives, substantial infrastructure growth, fleet requirements, and support for U.S. manufacturing and supply chain development.”

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