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Auto industry urges emissions deal weaker than Obama’s

ap photo The 2022 Bolt EV, foreground, and EUV are displayed Thursday in Milford, Mich. Whether people want them or not, automakers are rolling out multiple new electric vehicle models as the auto industry responds to stricter pollution regulations worldwide and calls to reduce emissions to fight climate change.

WASHINGTON — A coalition of automakers has told the Biden administration it would agree to raise mileage standards to reduce tailpipe emissions but with tradeoffs and at rates lower than those brokered by California with five other car manufacturers.

If agreed to, the proposal could give President Joe Biden a quick win by securing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions rather than waiting months, if not years, to legally undo a giant rollback approved when Donald Trump was president.

But environmental groups say the proposal doesn’t go far enough to ward off the damaging effects of climate change and automakers are rejecting tougher Obama-era standards that they have the technology to meet.

It also could result in two different sets of standards, one for California and the states that follow its rules, and another for the rest of the country. This could drive up vehicle prices.

Asked Friday about the proposal, the White House said discussions with the auto industry on a fuel emissions standard were still early. It declined to comment on whether the administration would accept an agreement that falls below the California deal or Obama-era standards, stressing that tough requirements would be needed to get popular and less-efficient SUVs off the road.

Under the plan, automakers would agree to stricter standards in exchange for a “multiplier” that would give them additional credit toward meeting the standards if they sell more electric vehicles, three people with knowledge of the talks said. The deal would incentivize automakers to get more electric vehicles on the road, thereby reducing pollution, said the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to reveal internal negotiations.

The proposal would raise mileage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate between Trump’s rollback and standards brokered by California in a 2019 agreement with five automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo — that is now followed by 13 states.

Most other automakers, including General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) backed Trump’s rollback. They’re among the automakers putting forward the new proposal. The companies had no official comment.

The Trump rollback increased mileage requirements by 1.5% per year from the 2021 through 2026 model years. The California deal has 3.7% annual increases, while the Obama standards were about 5% annually.

Under the Obama-era standards, automakers got double credit for fully electric vehicles toward meeting their fuel economy and pollution requirements. That “multiplier” was removed in the Trump rollback.

The Trump administration had blocked California’s legal authority to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act. The Biden administration is expected to take steps next month to undo that with a rule that environmental groups hope will pressure automakers to agree to higher standards.

A spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which regulates pollution, wouldn’t comment on the automakers’ proposal but said the agency “continues to advocate for the most rigorous vehicle standards possible.”

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