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120 Republicans join effort opposing Biden's 'de facto EV mandate'

FIRST ON FOX: A large bicameral coalition of dozens of Republican lawmakers are calling for the Biden administration to pull back regulations they say will mandate electric vehicles.

FIRST ON FOX: A coalition of 77 House and 43 Senate Republicans is calling on the Biden administration to scrap proposed fuel economy regulations that they and energy industry groups have characterized as a de facto electric vehicle (EV) mandate.

The 120 GOP lawmakers — led by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. — penned a letter late Tuesday to the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), warning that its corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards proposed in July would raise costs, restrict consumer choice, harm businesses and degrade both U.S. energy and national security.

"We strongly urge NHTSA to withdraw its misguided proposal, go back to the drawing board and reissue new CAFE standards that comply with the law, rather than ones that seek to pick winners and losers in the free market and remake our country’s economy," they wrote to NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman. 

"Nowhere in law did Congress authorize NHTSA to set fuel economy standards that effectively mandate EVs while at the same time force the internal combustion engine out of the market," the letter continued. "In fact, federal statute expressly prohibits NHTSA from considering the fuel economy of EVs when determining maximum feasible CAFE standards for passenger cars and trucks."

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The letter added that, despite a clear statutory limitation prohibiting NHTSA from factoring the fuel economy of EVs into its CAFE standard regulations, the Biden administration accounted for EVs in its "regulatory baseline" and factored that baseline into its determination of the maximum achievable CAFE standards. The proposal, therefore, effectively requires the mass production of EVs, they said.

The Republicans argued the NHTSA should set market-driven standards that promote competition among various technologies, not standards that "limit availability of and access to vehicle and fuel options." They also noted that EV production has a sizable carbon footprint, a fact not factored into the administration's rulemaking.

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"NHTSA’s out-of-touch de facto EV mandate ignores the reality that most Americans still prefer the internal combustion engine vehicle, and the fact there is a lack of consumer demand for EVs," the Republicans' letter added.

"The low consumer demand for EVs can likely be attributed to the various unappealing aspects of these vehicles, including the typically higher sticker prices and insurance premiums, shorter average driving ranges, lower resale value, inadequate battery technologies for severe cold weather and lack of operational charging infrastructure, particularly for drivers in rural areas," they wrote. "EVs are not a practical option for most Americans."

NHTSA's proposed CAFE standards, which the Biden administration argued would help combat climate change and save Americans money, require passenger cars and light trucks to improve fuel efficiency by 2% and 4%, respectively, beginning in 2027. Under the rules, pickup trucks and work vans must boost fuel efficiency 10% every year starting in 2030.

By 2032, the agency said, average U.S. fleet fuel economy could reach 58 miles per gallon. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the estimated average fuel economy for model year 2022 cars was 26.4 miles per gallon, meaning the proposed standards would mandate automakers to more than double fuel efficiency in less than a decade or face substantial penalties.

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In a comment letter submitted to NHTSA late last year, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group that represents several major automakers, said companies will pay more than $14 billion in non-compliance penalties under the proposal, impacting one in every two light trucks in 2027-2032 and one in every three passenger cars in 2027-2029. 

Overall, car prices are expected to increase by thousands of dollars as a result, simultaneously driving up the average age of vehicles on our roads and forcing consumers to choose EVs.

Additionally, the Republicans warned the NHTSA's proposal would benefit China while harming U.S. national security interests, noting that Chinese industry largely dominates EV supply chains. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), for example, China produces about 75% of all lithium-ion batteries, a key component of EVs, worldwide. 

China also boasts 70% of production capacity for cathodes and 85% for anodes, two key parts of EV batteries. And more than 50% of lithium, cobalt and graphite processing and refining capacity — which is vital for EV batteries — is located in China, the IEA data showed.

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"NHTSA’s proposed CAFE standards are just the latest attempt by the Biden administration to implement a de facto EV mandate," Walberg told Fox News Digital in a statement. "These standards will limit consumer choice, increase costs and make us reliant on adversaries like China.

"Instead of again pursuing unaffordable central planning, the Biden administration should let innovation and consumers lead us into the future," the Michigan Republican continued. "Whatever that future looks like, it should not be mandated by bureaucrats in Washington."

Walberg and fellow Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., introduced the Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act last year, which would block regulations proposed in April by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) significantly increasing tailpipe emissions standards for gas-powered cars. The House passed that legislation in December, but a companion bill introduced by Crapo has yet to receive a floor vote.

Republicans and energy industry groups have argued that, together, the EPA proposal and the NHTSA regulations targeted in the lawmakers' letter Tuesday are designed to push EVs on Americans. An estimated 8% of total vehicle sales were EVs in the third quarter of 2023, according to a Cox Automotive analysis.

"NHTSA’s proposal, combined with EPA’s proposed tailpipe emissions standards, would result in a de facto ban on the sale of new vehicles using gasoline and other liquid fuels," said American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer Amanda Eversole.

"These rules will hurt consumers through potentially higher costs, fewer options and increased reliance on unstable foreign supply chains," Eversole added. "We welcome the efforts of senators Crapo and Cruz, along with those of Representative Walberg, to protect American consumers’ access to all affordable and reliable vehicle options."

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In addition to the American Petroleum Institute, the nation's largest fossil fuel lobby group, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has argued against regulations aimed at increasing EV sales.

"The Biden administration is overseeing a whole-of-government campaign to effectively ban new gas, diesel and flex fuel vehicles," AFPM President and CEO Chet Thompson said in a statement. "This agenda is bad for American families, bad for our economy and indefensible from a national security perspective.

"AFPM supports efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation and improve vehicle performance and efficiency for consumers," he continued. "And unlike the Biden administration’s CAFE proposal, we believe successful, consumer-first policies must encourage real competition among all technologies and powertrains, including American-made, American-grown fuels."

Thompson also echoed Republicans, arguing that NHTSA and EPA lack congressional authorization to "regulate internal combustion engine vehicles out of the market."

NHTSA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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