Farm groups criticize EPA federal vehicle emissions standards proposal

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced new proposed federal vehicle emissions standards that the agency said will accelerate the ongoing transition to a clean vehicles future and tackle the climate crisis, but farm groups that promote ethanol criticized the rule.
The new proposed emissions standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles for model year 2027 and beyond “would avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to more than twice the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022, while saving thousands of dollars over the lives of the vehicles meeting these new standards and reduce America’s reliance on approximately 20 billion barrels of oil imports,” EPA said in a news release.
“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “These ambitious standards are readily achievable thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which is already driving historic progress to build more American-made electric cars and secure America’s global competitiveness.”
But Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, the most Democratic-leaning farm group, said in a news release, “Today’s announcement from EPA misses the mark. We have the tools and the resources right now for biofuels to play a much larger role in our transportation economy. Addressing the climate crisis is going to take immediate action, and putting further emphasis on the availability of higher blends of ethanol or other biofuels is something that could be done right away.”
American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Government Affairs Andrew Walmsley said, “We are deeply concerned by EPA’s proposal and the impact on cost and availability of new trucks that farmers and ranchers depend upon to keep this country fed. We are also disappointed that EPA is appearing to ignore the emissions reduction benefits of biofuels. The agency shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners or losers nor limiting Americans freedom of choice.”
The National Corn Growers Association said, “While we share the administration’s goal of lowering emissions, we are frustrated that EPA appears to be turning exclusively to electric vehicles to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The limitations on raw materials, charging infrastructure, consumer preferences, and other factors dictate the need for a wider range of options to immediately mitigate carbon emissions.
“We urge EPA and the Biden administration to focus on outcomes and opening pathways for all low-carbon fuels and technologies to help meet these strong standards, rather than appearing to focus on only enabling one technology in electric vehicles. Vehicle standards should help drive a level playing field that allows consumers access to a variety of clean vehicle and fuel options, including low-carbon ethanol, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52%.
“We will be active participants in offering improvements to EPA’s proposed rule.”
Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “Today’s EPA proposal would effectively force automakers to produce more battery electric vehicles and strongly discourage them from pursuing other vehicle technologies that could achieve the same — or better — environmental performance at a lower cost to the U.S. economy and American families. We urge EPA to reconsider its proposal and instead adopt a technology-neutral approach that treats all low-carbon transportation options fairly and equally.”
Cooper continued, “As this administration’s own research shows, high-octane, low-carbon renewable fuels like ethanol can immediately deliver dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency and carbon performance when paired with the right engine technologies. But today’s EPA proposal unfortunately ignores the ethanol opportunity and instead declares EVs as the winner, despite mounting evidence that a headlong rush into electrification could lead to a host of unintended environmental and economic consequences.”
“All we are asking for is a level playing field,” said Cooper, who noted that RFA will continue to provide EPA with formal comments and input on the proposal. “If given the same opportunity and an equitable regulatory framework, we are confident that higher ethanol blends — and the vehicles designed to use them — can play an instrumental role in affordable decarbonization of the nation’s light-duty auto fleet.”
Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said, “Based on early reporting, EPA’s proposed standards show a lack of imagination and ignore the reality that even by the most aggressive estimates, internal combustion engines will still occupy more than half of the light-duty vehicle marketplace by 2040. This proposal would constrict innovation and risk leaving millions of tons of carbon reductions on the table — setting us on a path towards eliminating any role for proven, emissions-reducing biofuel blends precisely when we should be embracing a strategy that supports multiple low-carbon options.
“In President Biden’s own words, ‘You simply can’t get to net-zero by 2050 without biofuels.’ By disregarding the contributions of low-carbon biofuels, the proposal puts a thumb on the scale for one technology at the expense of others, rather than giving automakers the flexibility to pursue innovative strategies for decarbonizing light-duty vehicles.”
But the Hip Hop Caucus, a national, non-profit organization in the United States, which aims to promote political activism for young U.S. voters, said that heavy-duty trucks make up less than a tenth of vehicles on the road but contribute over 25% of emissions and disproportionately affect Black and brown communities, via highways built near red-lined and low-income communities with regular traffic.
“When fully enacted, the EPA standards that the Hip Hop Caucus has called for would greatly reduce the amount of pollution these communities face on a regular basis,” the caucus said. “Our team has fought aggressively for strong regulations against this type of transit pollution, and while we believe more must still be done, this is a powerful first step. Some estimates say that reducing pollution to these new targets could save over 67,000 lives in the coming decades.”
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