EPA’s new rule calls for large emissions reductions, but does not eliminate gasoline cars

By | March 21, 2024

Hybrids don't necessarily have to look weird.

Hybrids don’t necessarily have to look weird.

The U.S. federal government has finalized new emissions regulations that will apply to cars, light trucks and medium-duty vehicles beginning in the 2027 model year. The idea is to get more hybrid and electric cars on the road to reduce pollution and improve public health. It is also presented as an incentive for the US auto industry to prioritize environmentally friendly innovation.

Here are the two main sources on this topic for your perusal:

  • The actual arrangement itself: Final rule: Emission standards for multi-pollutants for light- and medium-duty vehicles from model year 2027 and later

  • The EPA’s official press release: The Biden-Harris administration finalizes toughest-ever pollution standards for cars that position American companies and workers to lead the future of clean vehicles, protect public health, tackle the climate crisis and save drivers money

The EPA says the rule “applies to passenger cars, light trucks, and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032 and beyond.” That essentially includes all the common models that we all buy and drive. The definition of passenger cars is obvious; “light trucks” refers to pickups and some SUVs; “Medium-duty vehicles” are larger trucks with a GVWR of 8,501 to 14,000 pounds (things like Ford Super Duty, Ram 2500s and Chevy 2500s).

Here are some more details about the intended benefits:

“Compared to existing 2026 model year standards, the final 2032 model year standards represent a nearly 50% reduction in projected average fleet greenhouse gas emissions levels for light-duty vehicles and a 44% reduction for medium-duty vehicles. In addition, the standards are expected to reduce health-harming particulate matter emissions from gasoline vehicles by more than 95%.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

If the proposed regulations hold up in the market, average greenhouse gases from passenger cars will decrease in six years from 139 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2027 to just 73 grams.

The United Auto Workers union also issued a statement in response to the EPA release:

“The EPA has made significant progress on its final rule on greenhouse gas emissions for light-duty vehicles. By taking the concerns of workers and communities seriously, the EPA has gone a long way to creating a more viable emissions rule that protects workers who build ICE vehicles while providing automakers with a path forward to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions. ”

United Automobile Workers

SEMA, the association that advocates for aftermarket parts suppliers (it stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association), is firmly opposed to virtually any regulation that limits emissions. That’s no surprise: stricter emissions rules make it harder to modify cars and shrink the market for exhaust and combustion engine upgrades. But it was shared a press release which lays out the practical implications in a way that is much easier to understand than the EPA’s 1,181-page document linked above.

SEMA presents the changes between EPA’s proposed rule and the final rule announced today with the context of “bad regulation,” but the table, which I’ve embedded below, is still the best way to summarize the two I have found to compare:

EPA proposed rule

Rule adopted by EPA

As you can see, the new rules will indeed require car companies to reduce emissions from their offerings soon. But it has also declined significantly from its original form, especially during the first three years of the policy.

Whether you’re for or against these rules, it comes down to what you’re more interested in: trying to keep cars cheaper, or trying to make the air cleaner. The EPA contains a great deal of data and detail that argues for the latter. I’ll pull out a few for you here:

“In 2023, mobile sources were responsible for approximately 54 percent of anthropogenic NOX emissions, 5 percent of anthropogenic direct PM2.5 emissions, and 23 percent of anthropogenic volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions nationwide. Light- and medium-duty vehicles were responsible for approximately 23 percent, 20 percent and 52 percent of NOX, PM2.5 and VOC emissions from mobile sources in 2023, respectively.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Here’s another one I have to share wholesale:

“The transportation sector is the largest U.S. source of greenhouse gas emissions, representing 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Within the transportation sector, light vehicles are the largest contributor, at 58 percent, representing 16.5 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 10 before considering the contribution of medium-heavy vehicles of classes 2b and 3, which are also covered by this rule.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA’s ruling also addresses the successes of previous similar regulations and goes into deep detail about how our current pollution levels are harming people’s health. But you get the idea: breathing in smog is bad for you.

The EPA shared the announcement speech about what we discussed here EPA Administrator Michael Regan And National climate advisor Ali Zaidion Youtube:

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