Recently, multiple media outlets reported the Biden administration may revise a previously announced schedule on mandated new limits on emissions from vehicles using fossil fuels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projected these new limits would lead to 67% of new cars and light-duty truck sales being all-electric by 2032, an enormous increase given current sales of 7.6% in 2023.
Recent news from Ford makes that increase projection appear even more enormous. Last month, Ford announced they are reducing production of the F-150 Lightning all-electric pickup truck from the previously planned production rate of 3,200 per week to about 1,600 per week based on soft demand for EVs in the U.S. auto market.
The current emission mandate schedule has been strongly opposed by the United Auto Workers union, by manufacturers of about 97% of the new vehicles sold in the United States, and by 4000 new car dealerships across the country.
A new version is on its way. One may ask why and why now?
The sub headline in a recent New York Times article says it all.
“The change to planned rules was an election-year concession to labor unions and auto executives, according to people familiar with the plan.”
This is not surprising. Opposition to and political consequences of maintaining the current schedule has been noticed by the Biden re-election campaign.
Labor support has long been a key element of an enduring political coalition used most effectively by the Democratic Party, in national elections and especially so especially in vote rich blue states.
That labor support for Biden was first put to a test last year when the EPA initially proposed the new emission level schedules.
The Biden re-election campaign got a shot across the bow then. The president of the United Auto Workers Union announced the UAW was withholding its endorsement of Biden’s re-election bid citing their concerns with the aggressive schedule for a transition to all electric vehicles.
In public comments, that the UAW filed regarding the proposed rule, they pressed the Biden administration to relax the compliance timeline. In discussions with senior White House officials, they repeated that request. Following those discussions Biden administration officials said the union’s comments had “resonated.”
Beyond the threat of the UAW to withhold an endorsement, other comments that likely resonated with the Biden reelection campaign was an observation by University of Michigan political science professor Barry Rabe.
Speaking on Michigan politics and Donald Trump, Rabe said, “Mr. Trump has focused on the anxiety over electric vehicles that pervades that auto-making state, one of a handful of swing states where the election is likely to be decided. Whenever he [Trump] comes to the state, this comes up. And this is not abstract in Michigan, it’s a real question.”
By early January of this year, the EPA sent a revised version of its auto emissions limits to the White House. It included the longer time frame requested by the UAW.
Weeks later, the United Auto Workers endorsed Biden.
Historically the UAW has been a major political force in Michigan. Despite a diminished membership, their endorsement will help them in energizing and mobilizing their members in get out the vote initiatives for Biden in November.
If that happens, it will further affirm that the Biden administration has ramped up a “pedal to the metal” campaign mode regarding public policy issues that impact voters in a handful of key battleground states such as Michigan.
David Reel is a public affairs and public relations consultant who lives in Easton.