Congress is right to challenge the Biden administration’s vehicle ban

TThree years ago, California announced that it would ban the sale of new vehicles powered by gasoline, diesel and biofuels by 2035, effectively meaning a shift to 100% electric vehicles. The plan is considered extreme, especially in light of the glaring absence of adequate EV charging infrastructure, uncertainties about the EV supply chain, and the state’s perennially challenged power grid.

But instead of learning from California’s example, the EPA under President Joe Biden decided to make California’s policies mainstream with a national proposal to eliminate most new liquid-fueled cars and trucks in a more narrow time frame.

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Everyone should be concerned that extremism in California is going national and that the Biden administration is abusing its authority to make it happen. For starters, banning conventional vehicles, and thus the American-made fuel they use to power them, is illegal. Creating transformative, economy-wide energy and transportation laws is the job of Congress, not the president, which the Supreme Court continues to emphasize.

This sweeping political change also defies economic logic. Supporters of bans on gas and diesel fueled vehicles cite the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut emissions as reasons to force the shift to electric vehicles. Both arguments lack merit. As for the former, this argument might have worked fifty years ago when we had to import most of our energy from abroad. But this is not the 1970s.

US energy development and refining investments have changed the rules of the game. Today, the United States produces more gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, renewable fuels, and refined products than anywhere else in the world. Most of the fuel we use is made here from American crude oil. 84% of the oil we refine comes from North America, not overseas. We’re more energy secure than ever, and our vehicle fleet is the cleanest, most powerful and most efficient ever. We didn’t have to sacrifice comfort, performance, energy security or consumer choice to get here. Likewise, we do not need to ban gasoline and diesel cars and trucks, close refineries, or spend trillions of dollars on forced electrification for these improvements to continue.

The Biden administration feels differently. It causes us to trade our domestic energy advantages to become dependent on a battery and electric vehicle supply chain controlled by China, which may threaten, at any turn, to cut us off from critical minerals and batteries (as it has done before).

Regarding emissions, the EPA and California are, at best, proposing just moving emissions, not removing them. Its policies focus exclusively on one category of emissions, tailpipe emissions, and ignore all others. Through this miscalculation, the giant Hummer EV, with its multi-thousand-pound battery, would be deemed to have no emissions or environmental impact, but the Toyota Prius would be penalized.

If this administration is committed to cleaner transportation, it must take into account all the emissions associated with manufacturing, operating, and shipping vehicles, replacing parts, and ultimately recycling vehicles. They must also keep an open mind and consider the potential for renewable fuels, carbon capture, and fuel efficiency to further reduce the emissions intensity of transportation. Anything less than a comprehensive view of the life cycle is bound to fail.

Congress must take a stand against the Biden administration’s proposals. I recently testified in support of three bills moving through Congress aimed at holding the Biden administration accountable and removing any doubt about where Congress has and has not authorized the EPA to regulate:

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There is nothing in these bills that harms electric vehicles or would do anything to prevent people who want an electric car from buying one. But the way to expand the EV market is to require them to compete and become more affordable, available and convenient. It’s not about banning other compounds or using policies like the RFS to inflate the cost of alternatives.

Refinery companies support these bills and are urging members of Congress to do the same. We help reduce emissions by lowering the carbon intensity of our operations and fuel products, and we want to continue to do so. But our liquid fuels have a lasting role in a cleaner, more cost-competitive transportation sector, and in a world where the United States remains energy secure.

Chet Thompson is President and CEO of Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers of America. He previously served as Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration and was a partner at Crowell & Moring, where he headed the Environment and Natural Resources Group.

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