‘Complete Transformation’: New Biden Rule Would Force Automakers to Ditch Gas, Sell Electric Vehicles

Experts say impending EPA proposal would kill jobs and spark supply chain issues

An electric charging parking spot / Getty Images
April 10, 2023

The Biden administration is set to unveil new environmental regulations that would force U.S. automakers to sell electric vehicles over their gas-powered counterparts, a move experts say will kill jobs and bring major supply chain issues.

President Joe Biden's Environmental Protection Agency will announce on Wednesday a proposed rule to limit tailpipe emissions. That rule, according to the New York Times, will impose a strict emissions limit on vehicles sold—so strict that it will force automakers to ensure that two-thirds of the vehicles they sell are electric by 2032. "This is a massive undertaking," said Alliance for Automotive Innovation president John Bozzella, who represents U.S. automakers. "It is nothing short of complete transformation of the automotive industrial base and the automotive market."

If the rule is enacted, it would mark a significant escalation in both electric vehicle sales and U.S. environmental standards. Just 6 percent of vehicles sold last year were electric, and Biden in August 2021 signed an executive order calling for half of all U.S. car sales to be electric by 2030, well below the proposal's two-thirds benchmark. The rule would also prompt layoffs for autoworkers in states such as Michigan and Ohio, experts say, because electric cars take considerably fewer workers to build than gas-powered cars.

"We've dealt with the loss of jobs before through technology," United Auto Workers leader Mark DePaoli told the Times, "but when you talk about the speed of this, it's hard to fathom that we won't lose jobs."

In addition to auto industry layoffs, Biden's aggressive transition to electric vehicles would bring major supply chain and infrastructure challenges. China has an iron grip on the minerals required to build electric vehicle batteries, control that helped the communist nation produce 75 percent of the world's lithium batteries in 2021. Widespread electric vehicle use would also require expensive investments in charging stations and power grids, which must withstand skyrocketing demand should millions of Americans plug in their cars rather than fill them up with gas.

Biden has attempted to address some of those problems by signing bills that allocate tens of billions of dollars in green energy spending. But even with that spending, plenty of bumps remain on the road to electric vehicles. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for example, provided $7.5 billion to build roughly 500,000 charging stations—well below the more than 2 million stations experts say are needed to support the electric vehicle revolution. Power grid investments would likely be even more expensive, given that California alone must spend a whopping $9.3 billion to prepare its power grid for a green energy transition, the state's utility operator said last week.

Still, the pricey challenges associated with an electric vehicle transition have not stopped green energy advocates from arguing in favor of government standards that effectively mandate such a transition. Instead, the uncertainties associated with the electric vehicle market and supply chain only reinforce the need for government action, International Council on Clean Transportation executive director Drew Kodjak contented, as private companies and consumers may not flock to electric vehicles on their own.

"Everyone who's watched this movie knows that the market is fickle," Kodjak said in an interview with the Times. "What if there’s a market downturn? What if the battery minerals don’t pan out? Without these firm standards that have a clear trajectory on timing, none of the players can be sure that this will happen."

The Environmental Protection Agency said in a Friday statement that it's working to "accelerate the transition to a zero-emissions transportation future" but did not confirm the proposal's details. The agency's administrator, Michael Regan, is expected to announce the rule during a Wednesday event in Washington, D.C.