The United States can begin to take the biggest single step of any nation in the fight against climate change. The President must set tough rules that restore, and later strengthen, tailpipe emissions standards that President Donald Trump trashed while putting us on course to phase in a new car fleet that is 100% electric by 2030.
So, we can’t tame climate change without aggressively reining in gas-guzzling and emissions from SUVs, pickups, minivans and cars.
Last summer, the California Air Resources Board completed a feeble agreement with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW and Volvo that Dave Cooke, a Union of Concerned Scientists senior vehicles analyst, told us would cut emissions by only half what the Obama rules would have saved. Automakers seized on it as a model for the rest of the country.
We won’t fend off climate catastrophe with anything less than bold steps. We have no choice but to phase out internal combustion engines in new vehicles, and the pollution they emit, by 2030.
Cutting emissions and boosting gas mileage by 7% a year — two percentage points more than the companies agreed to a decade ago — will ensure that the tens of millions of gas-powered vehicles built between now and 2030 won’t bar us from protecting the climate.
This is auto mechanics, not rocket science. Nearly a decade ago, automakers started to meet Obama’s 5% yearly improvements by using more efficient transmissions; safe, lightweight, high-strength steel and aluminum, and aerodynamic designs. If they fully deploy these and other efficiency technologies in all their vehicles, they can achieve the imperative 7% gains while phasing in EVs. Here’s a bonus: the technology will save more than it costs.
If Biden takes bold action now — boosting gas mileage, scrapping loopholes, and plugging in — he can make history as the president who tackled the growing climate crisis. Global warming’s challenge demands no less.