Los Angeles’ downtown is covered in fog.
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The Environmental Protection Agency tightened fuel mileage rules on new cars and light-duty trucks Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy and signaling how Joe Biden’s administration may end up cutting emissions while its efforts to pass a climate law stall in Congress.

The new rule will require automakers to achieve an average of at least 55 miles per gallon fleetwide by 2026, a sizable increase over the standard of 40.4 mpg set during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Though that two-digit difference seems small, the Trump-era rule — itself a rollback finalized during the pandemic last year of the standards set under Barack Obama’s administration — took a 10-digit toll on the climate. American vehicles will continue to emit 1 billion tons more carbon in the atmosphere each year that they are on the road. That nearly equals the annual emissions of Japan, the world’s fifth-largest source of planet-heating carbon dioxide.

Automobile tailpipes spew the largest share of the United States’ climate-changing pollution, in addition to loads of fine particulate matter that trigger breathing problems and shorten lives particularly in neighborhoods near highways.

“We followed the science, we listened to stakeholders, and we are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet — and save families money at the same time,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

“We followed the science, we listened to stakeholders, and we are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet — and save families money at the same time,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
“We followed the science, we listened to stakeholders, and we are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet — and save families money at the same time,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
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The EPA estimates that by midcentury, the new standards will avert more than 3 billion tons of planet-warming emissions — more than half of the total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2019.

It is intended to act as a stopgap measure and make the vehicles as efficient possible over the next four year before more rigorous regulations that aim at decarbonizing America’s auto fleet by 2030. To ensure the rule’s completion by December, it was moved at an extraordinaryly rapid pace. It was then ready for use on 2023 model year vehicles.

“You can never go back and get the reduction I’d helped set for 2021 and 2022. We lost those two years under Trump,” said Jeff Alson, a former senior engineer and policy adviser to the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, who had helped write the Obama-era regulations. “This rulemaking recaptures what would have been the lost year of 2023.”

Although the final rule was slightly more than the August EPA proposal, the standards for 2026 model are about 6% lower than the original agency’s. It’s also forecast to deliver deeper cuts than what the original Obama regulation would have achieved.

Still, it’s only a first step, Alson said. He stated that he expected the EPA’s completion of a far more stringent automobile standard, for cars made after 2027, by either the beginning of 2022 (or the end of 2023).

“The real key will be in that second rulemaking for 2027. That’s the chance the Biden administration has to go way beyond what Obama did and start to seriously achieve the type of levels we need.”

– Jeff Alson, a former senior engineer and policy adviser to the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality

“The agency got about as much as they could get under these four years, and the real key will be in that second rulemaking for 2027,” Alson said. “That’s the chance the Biden administration has to go way beyond what Obama did and start to seriously achieve the type of levels we need.”

Monday’s announcement comes as Biden faces mounting pressure to take unilateral action to confront the climate threat. After months of conflicting negotiations, Senator Joe Manchin (D.W.Va.), made the announcement over the weekend announced he would not vote for Biden’s social spending package, putting a dagger through what many see as a rare opportunity for Democrats to pass meaningful climate legislation. Although key climate provisions had already been stripped from Biden’s Build Back Better Act during negotiations, it still included more than $550 billion in clean energy and climate investments.

“I hope that Congress will one day pass laws to slow the climate crisis,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement Sunday. “Until then, it’s up to the administration to take every action possible, as quickly as possible.”

CORRECTION: This article was corrected to correct Jeff Alson’s misspelling.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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