Story at a glance

  • To help halt climate change, Democratic lawmakers asked Biden to implement more stringent fuel efficiency standards and facilitate a transition to electric vehicles.
  • The transportation sector is the largest source of air pollution in the U.S.

A coalition of more than 80 House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden urging him to reinstate the Obama-era restrictions on vehicle emissions through 2025 in a bid to halt the effects of climate change.

Spearheaded by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), the letter references a recent publication by the United Nations that states that more countries need to take stronger action to stop global temperatures from rising past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Changes in the transportation sector — which accounts for a large slice of the U.S.’s total emissions — are the most tenable way to counter the effects of climate change and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. 

Thus, Matsui and her fellow signatories ask Biden to reinstate the California Clean Air Act, as well as previous Obama-era emissions limits. The letter also calls for a stronger approach to transitioning the nation to electric-based transportation.

“After four years of reckless rollbacks of our auto fuel and clean air standards from the Trump Administration, it is crucial that we make bold investments to protect consumers, the environment, and our public health,” Matsui said in a press release. “For decades, California has led the way in developing the gold standard for emissions. In my district and home state, we have long recognized the need for decisive action. That is why we must reinstate the state’s Clean Air Act waiver and return to the highly effective Obama-Biden era standards.”

Roughly one year ago, Trump mandated that U.S. automakers make vehicles 1.5 percent more fuel efficient each year until 2026 — significantly lower than the 5 percent imposed by the Obama administration. 

Under the stricter 5 percent fuel efficiency standard, the corporate average fuel economy would fall to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Reimplementing the original 5 percent fuel efficiency standard would further reduce the volume of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, thereby helping the U.S. abide by the terms of the Paris Agreement, which called for a global temperature increase maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Simultaneously, a group of Democratic senators issued a similar letter to Biden, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) leading the coalition.


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The senators also ask that Biden reinstate more stringent emissions limits and emphasize the need for a large national transition to electric vehicles. 

“With existing technologies that manufacturers could deploy more widely, as well as with rising adoption of affordable zero-emission vehicles, the achievable Obama-Biden 5 percent annual improvement has room to grow, with the promise of even greater benefits and savings,” the senators write.

A critical component of Biden’s Build Back Better campaign is to completely overhaul the nation’s transit systems, including passenger vehicles, with sustainable alternatives. His long-term goal is to set the U.S. on a path to hit net-zero emissions by 2050.

While expanding access to climate-resilient public transit is a major component of his infrastructure plan, Biden also expressed support for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Clean Cars For America Climate Proposal, which would offer discounts for clean vehicles when trading in a gas-powered car. 

It would also improve upon existing battery charging infrastructure. 

Several environmental advocacy groups, including the League of Conservation Voters and Union of Concerned Scientists, have expressed support for the reinstatement of strict fuel efficiency standards.

“The transportation sector is the biggest source of global warming emissions in the country, and a major source of health-harming pollution that disproportionately affects communities of color,” said Michelle Robinson, the director of the Clean Transportation Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We can’t reach our climate goals and build a healthier, more equitable country unless we address emissions from cars and trucks.”


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Published on Mar 24, 2021