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Monday, July 22, 2024

EPA’s strict new rules will upend the auto industry

Congress will soon be deciding whether to overturn the Biden administration’s new vehicle emissions regulation that will effectively ban the sale of most new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2032. These votes in the House and Senate will be a big test for the Texas congressional delegation.

Everyone who depends on cars and trucks in their daily lives has a vested interest in whether this regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to stand, but Texans have even more at stake.

Texas is the United States’ top fuel manufacturing state. Its 30-plus refineries are a large reason why the United States is the world’s No. 1 producer of liquid fuels and refined products. The refining industry in Texas supports more than 1.1 million jobs and contributes nearly $275 billion to the economy and an additional $60 billion in taxes. So any policies aimed at eliminating cars and trucks that run on American-made fuels are an especially big deal for Texans.

EPA’s new regulation sets standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions that are so strict, no gas, diesel or traditional hybrid can meet them on their own. Even the agency has acknowledged the most likely way automakers will meet the standards by 2032 is if about 70% of all new auto sales are either electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Gas cars will be limited to no more than 29% of sales, putting them out of reach of most Texans, particularly working-class families.

Considering that less than 8% of new auto sales were EVs last year, this new policy will fundamentally upend the auto industry and have significant ramifications for the future of American-made, American-grown fuels.

While there has been growing bipartisan support to push back on the administration’s efforts to phase out new gas cars, hardly any Texas Democrats have taken that stand. In fact, current Senate candidate Colin Allred even appears to support the Biden administration. Maybe that will change with the coming votes as Congress makes one more attempt to restrain the EPA and forge a sensible policy path that protects consumer choice and keeps individuals and families in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding which types of cars and trucks work best for them.

Congress never authorized the EPA to ban internal combustion engine vehicles. Focusing just on tailpipe emissions, which EPA’s rule does, ignores the environmental impact of assembling materials and making, fueling, charging and recycling vehicles.

The EPA’s regulation penalizes traditional hybrids and small sedans and acts as though EVs have no impact on the environment, which we know to be untrue.

It’s also essential to note that if consumers were demanding EVs on their own, EPA’s rule wouldn’t be necessary. Their gas car ban is meant to force consumers in a direction they are not voluntarily going, even with billions in taxpayer subsidies working in that direction.

In addition to the economic damage it would cause, the EPA policy is a national security nightmare. It would trade our nation’s advantage as the world’s leading fuel producer for much more dependence on China, which controls the global supply chain for EV batteries, minerals and manufacturing.

Voting to stop EPA’s overreach on this policy should be table stakes for everyone in the Texas congressional delegation, especially those whose constituents depend on fuel refining and petrochemical manufacturing for their livelihoods.

A Pew Research poll shows Americans support renewable energy but they oppose breaking from fossil fuels altogether and have concerns about government regulations designed to limit the availability of gas cars and impose electric mandates. Elected officials should be siding with their constituents — the millions of car-buying consumers who still prefer gas vehicles.

Today’s gas and diesel vehicles are the cleaner, most efficient on record, and we haven’t hit the ceiling for those improvements. Rather than disqualifying those vehicles, EPA should let all technologies and fuels compete on a lifecycle basis and allow consumers and families to decide what works best for them.

Since the Biden administration isn’t willing to trust consumers with the choice, it will be up to Congress to set things right, and that will require the support of Texas Republicans and Democrats.

Chet Thompson is chief executive and president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, based in Washington, D.C. Thompson previously served as deputy general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency during President George W. Bush’s administration.

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