A proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that “would limit tailpipe emissions so that in order to comply, auto companies would have to sell 60% of new vehicles as electric by 2030” would adversely affect the safety of cars.
So says Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“Well, since [electric] vehicles are more expensive, people would postpone buying them. So, they would stay with their older cars, and newer cars have more safety features. If they get in an accident, they’re less likely to hurt the passenger,” Furchtgott-Roth says.
“So, because of that, you have increases in injuries and fatalities, if you make new cars more expensive. And that’s if you increase [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards for normal gasoline-powered vehicles, or you mandate electric vehicles,” she adds. According to the Department of Transportation, CAFE standards are fleetwide averages that must be achieved by each automaker for its car and truck fleet.
Furchtgott-Roth joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to further discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule and what environmental benefits the EPA is hoping to accomplish in potentially implementing that rule, as well as the role that China plays in producing electric vehicles.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Samantha Aschieris: Diana Furchtgott-Roth is joining today’s show. Diana is the director of the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment here at The Heritage Foundation. Diana, thanks for joining us. It’s great to have you again.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth: It’s great to be with you, Samantha.
Aschieris: So let’s just dive right in and discuss this proposed Environmental Protection Agency role, which aims to “further reduce harmful air pollutant emissions from light-duty and medium-duty vehicles, starting with model year 2027.” That’s according to the EPA’s website.
Diana, you have been outspoken about this proposed rule just recently. You and Kevin Dayaratna of The Heritage Foundation wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Regan to express your opposition. First and foremost, what exactly does this rule entail?
Furchtgott-Roth: The rule would limit tailpipe emissions so that in order to comply, auto companies would have to sell 60% of new vehicles as electric by 2030. Right now, 6% of new vehicles sold are electric. That would have to rise to 60% to comply with the new rule by 2030 and 67% by 2032.
And I’m all in favor of people who love EVs to buy an EV, but right now EV sales are 6% of total new vehicle sales, and there are many Americans who prefer a car with an internal combustion engine. Because there are four Cs that we have to remember. There’s cost, there’s convenience, there’s climate, and there’s China.
And these are four reasons why many Americans prefer cars with some internal combustion engine, whether it’s a hybrid and internal combustion engine or just a normal gasoline-powered engine by itself.
Aschieris: Can you expand a little bit more on the four Cs and how this rule in particular would impact Americans?
Furchtgott-Roth: Sure. So the first C is cost, and EVs cost about $15,000 to $20,000 more than a regular gasoline-powered vehicle. So you take the best-selling car in America, which is the Ford F-150 pickup truck, and the Ford Lightning pickup truck costs about $15,000 to $20,000 more than the base. So that’s one reason that many people prefer just to drive the base model, the gasoline-powered model, because they don’t want to buy a more expensive vehicle.
Then there’s the second C, which is convenience. When your car is out of gas, you just stop and you can fill up in five or 10 minutes, the way I did this morning with my 2006 Jeep. When you have an EV, sometimes you can charge it at your home, and that’s really convenient if you just go short distances and you don’t go out of town, and you can charge it from an in-home charger.
But many people don’t have the kind of home where you can charge it with an in-home charger. Or they want to go to the beach, they want to go see their parents, they want to go on vacation in another state, and they would have to stop when it was out of range and it would take them 45 minutes to recharge it. That is, if they were the first one at the charging station.
Now, say there was one person ahead of them, that’s one and a half hours; two people ahead of them, that’s well over two hours. And you can do the math.
If you have a bunch of screaming kids in the car, it’s bad enough to have a two- or three-hour car trip. We used to drive eight hours to South Carolina. I don’t know what it would’ve been like with a couple of stops on the way to charge up our EV.
So that’s the second C.
And then the third C is climate. Because these cars don’t work so well in cold weather, because EVs lose their battery range. That’s why in Wyoming, they’re only about 500 registered EVs. In North Dakota, there’s about 350. Because the batteries lose 20% to 40% of the range when it’s cold.
So they’re not popular in very cold-weather states. They’re not popular in Canada. Not popular in Minnesota, South Dakota, Alaska, for example.
And then the fourth C is China. Do we want to be dependent on China for our electric batteries? China right now produces 80% of the world’s electric batteries and a lot of the components. China has a hold on a lot of the minerals that are needed for the batteries, like lithium, and graphite, and cobalt, which are not produced in the United States.
So we, in essence, lose our energy independence. We lose the ability to use our own gasoline, which we get from our own oil. We refine it with our refiners. And we’re dependent on a foreign country, China, for these electric batteries for a very important part of the American lifestyle, transportation.
So because of these four Cs, electric vehicles are something that not everybody wants to buy.
Aschieris: Absolutely. And in your comments to Administrator Regan, you write that the rule would make cars less safe. Why is that?
Furchtgott-Roth: Well, since vehicles are more expensive, people would postpone buying them. So they would stay with their older cars, and newer cars have more safety features. If they get in an accident, they’re less likely to hurt the passenger.
So because of that, you have increases in injuries and fatalities, if you make new cars more expensive. And that’s if you increase [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards for normal gasoline-powered vehicles or you mandate electric vehicles.
You find that people stick with their old cars, and especially low-income people are stuck with worse cars. And this is very regressive because you find poorer people die more frequently from accidents and are hurt more frequently in car accidents.
Aschieris: Now, I just want to talk about the goal of what this rule would aim to accomplish. What environmental benefits is the EPA hoping to accomplish in potentially implementing this rule, in terms of helping the environment?
Furchtgott-Roth: The EPA is hoping to have cleaner air. And that cleaner air, reduced emissions, supposedly will help global warming.
But the United States’ share of carbon emissions is getting smaller by the day. And the United States and Western Europe can do all they want to reduce carbon emissions, but it’s not going to help global temperatures because Africa, Latin America, China, India, they are not proposing to reduce their carbon emissions. So it’s just us.
And if the United States got rid of all fossil fuel emissions, then it would make a difference of two-tenths of 1 degree Celsius by the year 2100. These are numbers calculated by our chief statistician, Kevin Dayaratna. So we’re spending trillions of dollars inconveniencing Americans, raising taxes, all for no difference in global temperatures.
People should understand that moving energy-intensive manufacturing from the United States to China or India, where it’s produced in a dirtier environment, with dirtier coal-fired power plants, is not going to help global warming. It doesn’t reduce global emissions, moving manufacturing from a place where it’s produced in a clean manner to a place where it’s produced in a dirty manner. In fact, it can increase global emissions.
Aschieris: Now, something that you brought up earlier and you also mentioned in your comments to Administrator Regan, was that this rule would strengthen China, as you mentioned with the four Cs. The role that China plays in producing electric vehicles.
Could you expand on that a little bit more in terms of what that role entails exactly and then, is there a way for the U.S. to lessen that role and kind of counter the influence that China has in this conversation?
Furchtgott-Roth: There’s the production of the electric batteries itself and China has a big advantage in that because labor, energy, and capital are all less expensive in China.
Let’s take labor. First of all, wages are lower. Second, there’s slave labor from Xinjiang. There’s forced labor, which has been documented by Amnesty International, as China puts its Uyghur population into, basically, forced labor camps, concentration camps, and then uses them as slave labor to produce these batteries. So the cost of labor is lower.
The cost of energy is lower because they don’t mandate scrubs on coal-fired power plants, they don’t have any of the restrictions we do here. So electricity is a lot less expensive.
And then capital is less expensive because the Chinese government gives low-interest loans to favored companies. That’s one reason that the share of electric vehicles in China is growing. Certain companies have low-interest loans, they are propped up by the Chinese Communist Party. So it’s difficult for the United States to compete on cost grounds.
Then, take the minerals for the batteries. In China, these are mined sometimes with child labor. In the United States, when there’s a mine—it’s very difficult when there’s supplies of lithium. And, for example, there’s a lithium mine in Nevada. The administration often does not approve that mine. It doesn’t approve us getting these minerals out of the ground.
So we have plenty of these minerals here in the United States, but it’s much harder to mine them because we have restrictions.
There are environmentalists here who don’t like mining in the United States. They seem to be perfectly happy for child workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, to be getting cobalt out of those mines. They don’t want little American children here getting cobalt out of the mines here. They don’t even want the mines here. They don’t like mining. They think it’s nasty and dirty.
So even though we could be self-sufficient in terms of minerals, we are not.
Another irony is that many environmentalists don’t like coal mining here and they look on mining as dirty. But ramping up electric vehicles to scale would require huge amounts of mining, wherever it is, in the United States, different parts of the world, etc. So this is not environmentally clean and environmentally free.
Plus, there’s the recharging of the batteries. So they call these electric vehicles emissions-free. Well, there aren’t any emissions from the tailpipe, but they have to be recharged using electricity. And producing electricity requires emissions. Because we’re not producing electricity only with wind and solar and hydropower and nuclear, which are the emissions-free sources. We are producing electricity with coal and natural gas, and that causes emissions. So it’s not emissions-free.
The only way we would have emissions-free vehicles is if it were run only on, say, nuclear power. It’s not possible to run all these vehicles just on wind and solar.
But the same environmentalists who want us to have electric vehicles don’t want us to have nuclear power. They are very actively working against nuclear power because they say it’s dangerous, even though France has produced 60% or 70% of its electricity over the past 50 years from nuclear power without any adverse effect.
Aschieris: Heritage Action for America, which is the grassroots arm of The Heritage Foundation, created a portal where you could submit comments about the rule. And nearly 16,000 Americans expressed their opposition to this proposed rule, which accounted for 8.7% of all comments.
What do you think this turnout opposing the rule says about how Americans feel about it? And do you think, given this pushback, given this opposition, that it’s likely to take effect?
Furchtgott-Roth: First of all, I would say that the 8.7% opposing, that just represents The Heritage Foundation comments that were listed on the website. I think there are a lot more Americans that oppose it. It’s not that 91% or 92% of Americans and comments are in favor of the rule. Many, many people are against the rule.
Because like me, they’re pro-choice. They say, “I want to be able to buy an electric vehicle or a gasoline-powered vehicle, or maybe I want one of each. An electric vehicle to go on short trips, a gasoline-powered vehicle when I drive on vacation with my kids.”
So I think that there are many, many people who do oppose this.
Aschieris: Definitely. And do you think that it’s likely to take effect? And sort of, what would be the timeline for this rule to go into effect?
Furchtgott-Roth: The timeline is that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to consider all the comments and then they put out a final rule. The final rule would probably be out, possibly, at the beginning of 2024. And then, as with most major rules, it’s going to get challenged.
There was a very good comment by my colleague Steve Bradbury, former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, where he pointed out certain legal problems with the rule.
For example, the law states that the Transportation Department is supposed to set CAFE standards along with EPA. This is just the Environmental Protection Agency without the Transportation Department. So that is grounds on which to challenge the rule.
And there are other grounds, too. There are things that the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t take into account. The increased cost of electricity, which might happen through another EPA rule that’s going through at the same time called the power plant rule, which would require companies to sequester or bury 90% of their carbon emissions, or else close down by 2040.
This would raise the price of electricity. And EPA in its electric vehicle rule did not account for the increased price of electricity that would take place with its parallel rule.
And, by the way, the parallel rule on power plants did not account for the increase in demand for electricity from the 60% of new cars sold that would be battery-powered electric. So there are a number of other problems, other assumptions that EPA has made.
And this is a legal question. This goes through different courts. And I’m an economist, I’m not suited to comment on these legal issues. But there are many legal issues there. If our listeners are interested, they can read Steve Bradbury’s comments, which focus on these legal issues.
Aschieris: And just speaking of Steve Bradbury, we’re actually going to have him on the show later this week. So just a little teaser for an upcoming interview.
And just along the same lines of people who are opposing this rule, 25 attorneys general wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Regan about the proposed role. And something that I thought was interesting in what they said in their comments was, “The electrical grids are neither stable nor safe enough to handle EPA’s proposal. The country will be more energy-dependent and less secure because of it.”
I just wanted to get your thoughts on what the AGs had to say and what they meant by the electrical grids not being stable or safe enough.
Furchtgott-Roth: So, we’ve all seen the blackouts that have happened in California. There’ve been blackouts or losses of power in Texas and other states. And if you have a lot of people buying electric vehicles and then charging them, that places a great strain on the grid.
Right now, they’re operating their vehicles by going to a gas station, filling it up with gas, and then going wherever they want. If they’re dependent on these charging stations, either in their homes or else all over the state, that places a lot more strain on the electric grid.
Plus, we have more strain on the electric grid as we try to integrate wind power and solar power into the grid, which is not a simple matter because wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. And so you have to have backup power. This is a lot more complicated for an electric utility to produce.
And we saw this last summer when [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom, one week in August, passed a regulation that required sales of electric vehicles in a certain year. And then the next week, he asked people not to charge their electric vehicles because they were short of power. So the governor of California admits that there’s a major problem right there, without even the increased number of electric vehicles that he has mandated.
Aschieris: And just one final question for you. In a recent commentary for The Daily Signal you wrote about Uncle Sam’s Grand Theft Auto plan. Can you expand more on what you meant by this? And yeah, just tell us a little bit more.
Furchtgott-Roth: Cars in America are iconic. People choose cars because they reflect their personality. No one drives a Corvette, for example, because it’s the best form of transportation. And other cars also reflect people’s personality. Maybe someone will choose a Mercedes or a Cadillac because they want to appear to be successful to their neighbors and to outsiders, as well as these cars being excellent forms of transportation.
So to be told what car they can and cannot buy is a kind of authoritarianism that we haven’t had in the United States right now.
And it’s not just that we’re told what kind of car to buy. We’re told we have to buy an expensive car. It’s not just that we’re told what kind of car to buy. We’re limited in where we go. Because if there’s no charging stations in a particular area, then we can’t go there.
And then what if the state wants to say, this week or tonight, you can’t charge your car because that’ll be too much strain on the grid? That’ll limit our ability to go to school or to work.
In California, there’s even a proposed bill that would mandate bidirectional charging. Bidirectional charging is when the state is allowed to suck the electricity from your car battery when the state doesn’t have enough electricity to operate and might be in danger of blackouts. And state Assemblywoman Nancy Spencer said, “Why should we have all this electricity and batteries sitting around going unused when we need it at the state level?”
So the bill would say that for as of 2027, any car sold in the state of California has to have the capability of bidirectional charging. That means it has to be able to give its electricity in its battery back to the grid. Right now, there are two vehicles that do this. The Ford F-150 Lightning Pickup and the Hyundai Ioniq. They want every car to be able to do this.
So you don’t really own the electricity in your battery, even if you’ve put it there. The state owns it. And that’s, again, an element of authoritarianism that Americans haven’t been able to deal with.
During the pandemic, in some countries such as the United Kingdom, they had a rule that only six people at a time were allowed to be in someone’s backyard. And I have family in England, and I was telling them this would never work in the United States. No one would listen.
But in the United Kingdom, they were very law-abiding and they only had six people in the backyard at a time. But we’re not so law-abiding. We have a love of freedom. People here come here because they want mobility, they want freedom. And an element of freedom is getting in your car and driving.
There are so many movies about travels on the road. There are so many songs. Look at all the James Taylor songs about setting out on the road. And it’s an integral part of American life.
So I don’t think Americans are going to abandon this without big protests. And that’s one reason there’ve been so many comments against the rule. And I don’t think it’s going to work. Out manufacturing sector cannot just flip on a dime and start producing electric vehicles. You can see the president of the United Auto Workers, Shawn Fain, has come out against these electric vehicles because his autoworkers are being put out of business.
Stellantis is laying off workers. Ford, GM also. They’re closing their plants. Look at all the mechanics who repair the gasoline-powered vehicles. They would be out of business. The auto parts suppliers, it’s a huge part of the American economy. And it’s just industrial policy to say, “You can’t buy this anymore.”
Many of us have iPhones or Androids, and it’s not like the government subsidized the iPhones. It’s not like they paid Apple and subsidized the Apple factories to produce them. But with these EVs, they’re paying the producers to produce them. They’re subsidizing the factories. And then they’re giving people a tax credit to buy them.
There’s something wrong with this picture. There’s something very wrong. And Americans are not going to sit quietly and allow it to happen.
Aschieris: Well, Diana, thank you so much for joining us. Just before we go, any final thoughts from you or anything that our audience should be aware of moving forward?
Furchtgott-Roth: I think you’ve covered everything from that, I think.
Furchtgott-Roth: Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Aschieris: Of course. Thank you so much, and we’d love to have you back on in the future.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.