New EPA Fuel Standards For Cars

By Paul Homewood



WASHINGTON (Dec. 20, 2021) – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing the most ambitious federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks ever. The final standards, for Model Years (MY) 2023 through 2026, leverage advances in clean car technology to unlock $190 billion in net benefits to Americans, including reducing climate pollution, improving public health, and saving drivers money at the pump. The final rule also delivers more net benefits to consumers than the proposed rule showcasing how zero-emission vehicles are more affordable and more efficient for consumers.

The ambitious standards through 2026 also set the light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) program on track to provide a strong launch point for the Agency’s next phase of standards for MY 2027 and beyond. EPA is planning to initiate a separate rulemaking to establish multi-pollutant emission standards under the Clean Air Act for MY 2027 and later that will speed the transition of the light-duty vehicle fleet toward a zero-emissions future consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order, “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks.”

“The final rule for light duty vehicles reflect core principles of this Administration: 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,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “At EPA, our priority is to protect public health, especially in overburdened communities, while responding to the President’s ambitious climate agenda. Today we take a giant step forward in delivering on those goals, while paving the way toward an all-electric, zero-emissions transportation future.”

The standards finalized today are the most ambitious vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gases ever established for the light-duty vehicle sector in the United States. They are based on sound science and grounded in a rigorous assessment of current and future technologies with supporting analysis that shows the standards are achievable and affordable. EPA’s final standards for 2025 and 2026 deliver even greater net benefits and emissions reductions than those proposed in the initial rulemaking stage in August of 2021. Through 2050, the program will result in avoiding more than 3 billion tons of GHG emissions which is equivalent to more than half the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2019. 


I mentioned the demise of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Bill, which was originally intended to include an ambitious Green New Deal. Most of the latter had been dropped anyway, even before the Bill stalled.

An important part of Biden’s climate plan, which pledged a 40% cut in emissions by 2030, is transport. He had originally hoped to spend hundreds of billions on the roll out of electric cars, including subsidies to manufacturers and consumers, federal purchases and a charging network.

Without this largesse, all he really has in his locker now are regulations; hence the new GHG standards announced this week by the EPA.

In reality however, these are extremely limited in what they might achieve. Indeed they are only an extension of Obama’s programme, and not dissimilar to EU regulations brought in a decade or more ago. They are in reality purely fuel efficiency standards, rather than a mandate to produce X number of EVs, which I would presume would not be lawful anyway.

The new proposals are effectively the same as Obama’s 2012 regulations, which mandated an average fuel efficiency for passenger cars of 55 mpg by 2025. These were relaxed by Trump in 2018.



As they are Executive Actions, these new standards can be easily overridden by the next President, and no doubt will if a Republican wins.

The EPA reckon that these new standards will save 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050. It sounds a huge number, but is only 100 billion tonnes a year, which represents just 2% of US emissions.

And the new standards bring problems. In of themselves, they do absolutely nothing to persuade drivers to actually buy electric. Carmakers will doubtlessly continue to improve fuel efficiency over time anyway, as has happened here without the need for regulation. At the same time, increasing numbers of cars on the road have tended to offset any savings.

But it is likely that they will also have to produce larger numbers of small cars to balance the books, thus reducing their profitability. The EPA also reckon that the new standards will add about $1000 to the cost of a new car.

In the meantime, there is nothing to stop drivers buying imported cars which won’t be affected by the regulations.

All in all, expect this latest rule to have negligible effect.


December 23, 2021 at 12:00PM

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