Since Joe Biden’s election last month, U.S. car companies have been stepping up one by one to support the limits on tailpipe emissions he has pledged to impose. A new spirit of cooperation between the industry and the government would be good news for the fight against climate change. But it’s also good news for automakers themselves: What they really need — and Biden can provide — is help building the U.S. market for electric cars and trucks.
Biden’s first order of business will be to settle the matter of those emissions limits. He has promised to go beyond even the standards set by President Barack Obama, which called for a yearly increase in average fleet fuel economy of 4.7%. Reaching that target alone would mean that by 2026, one of every four light-duty passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. would be electric.
President Donald Trump lowered this standard to just 1.5%. But he ran into trouble with California, which sets its own rules (and those of a dozen other states that follow its lead) and which has insisted on sticking to Obama’s path. Trump’s attempt to rein California in only sent the fight to court. At this point, dropping that case and reraising the standard would be the most effective thing Biden could do to reduce emissions without Congress’s help.