purple car with pollution cloud coming out of the back

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How right-wing media misled viewers on a new rule to curb tailpipe pollution from cars

  • On March 20, the Biden administration finalized a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that will set strict limits on pollution from new gas-powered cars, priming automakers for success in meeting the administration’s other ambitious goal of ensuring that a combination of all-electric and hybrid vehicles makes up two-thirds of new car sales by 2032. 

    The administration worked with stakeholders on the EPA’s proposed rule, ultimately adopting a slightly modified version that would give automakers a more flexible timeline for achieving the 2032 goal and that would allow hybrid cars to play a larger role in decarbonization efforts.

    However, both right-wing media and former President Donald Trump have parroted misleading claims from the oil and gas industry, which stands to lose the most from the implementation of standards that will cut planet-warming emissions produced by internal combustion engines.

  • Right-wing media, Trump, and the fossil fuel industry insist the new rule will be a boon to China and harm American auto workers

    • During a March 16 campaign rally in Ohio, while talking about the current state of the auto industry, former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump declared, “If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.” Trump has insisted that Biden’s policies benefit Chinese companies that dominate the global EV market. “We’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line and you’re not going to be able to sell those cars — if I get elected,” he also said during the rally, apparently referring to Chinese cars being assembled in Mexico. [Media Matters, 3/18/24; Politico, 3/18/24]
    • In April 2023, after the rule was first announced, American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers told Fox Business that we are “sacrificing American energy independence” to China. “Sommers said that when it comes to rules regulating tailpipe emissions and encouraging the sale of electric vehicles, “We shouldn't just be looking at this from the perspective of emissions, but we should also be looking at it from a national security perspective. We should not be sacrificing American energy independence to a regime that is certainly hostile to American interests.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 4/10/23]
    • In June 2023, the Koch-connected Heritage Foundation’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth wrote that the Biden administration's energy policies, including the rule to regulate tailpipe emissions are “favoring China.” The Heritage Foundation is a key author of Project 2025 — a conservative “battle plan” intended to guide the next Republican presidential administration. The plan would eliminate environmental protections and further delay climate action. [The Heritage Foundation, 6/22/23; The New York Times, 8/4/23]
    • In response to the final rule, Fox host Jeanine Pirro argued that China “is benefiting from this” while the automakers “aren’t going to benefit from this.” “China is going to be making these EV cars in Mexico and that’s what the whole ‘bloodbath’ thing was about,” Pirro said. “But it really is true that, you know, the automakers aren't going to benefit from this. China is making the vehicles through their own supply chain. They have a mineral supply chain that we don't have access to.”  [Fox News, The Five, 3/19/24]
    • The Five host Dana Perino said that the new rule “doesn’t work” because “all the federal taxpayer subsidies in the world are not going to change the fact that … the materials have to come from adversarial places like China.” She continued, complaining that if the materials “can come from here, they make it so difficult to get it out of the ground. It makes it very difficult.”  [Fox News, The Five, 3/19/24]
  • In reality, the Biden administration’s policies have bolstered the auto industry and reduced U.S. dependence on China, and the new EPA rule has been accepted by the United Auto Workers Union and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation

    • The United Auto Workers endorsed Joe Biden for president in 2024 and worked with the Biden administration to ensure the final rule addressed labor’s concerns: “If our endorsement must be earned, then Joe Biden has earned it!” said UAW President Shawn Fain. Fain attacked Donald Trump’s  record on unions, arguing that he’s anti-worker. “Donald Trump is a scab!” Fain said. “Donald Trump is a billionaire, and that's who he represents!” [NBC News, 1/24/24; The Washington Post, 3/20/24]
    • The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group whose members include Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, and Toyota, praised the EPA’s decision to adjust EV targets. According to reporting from The Washington Post, the president and CEO of the alliance, John Bozzella, said in a statement, “Moderating the pace of EV adoption in 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2030 was the right call. … These adjusted EV targets — still a stretch goal — should give the market and supply chains a chance to catch up.” [The Washington Post, 3/20/24]
    • The Biden administration’s investment in clean energy, including through the Inflation Reduction Act, is reducing the United States’ reliance on China for clean energy. Dozens of companies have announced plans to manufacture EV battery components in America. Already, 57% of battery cells in EVs sold in the U.S. are produced here, while companies have invested more than $352 billion since August 2022 in clean energy, contributing to the creation of more than 54,000 new electric vehicle jobs and nearly 118,000 new battery manufacturing jobs. [Yale Climate Communications, 9/20/23; InsideEVs, 5/10/23; Climate Power, 7/25/23]
    • The American auto industry was hurt by Trump’s policies, but under President Biden, the industry is stronger than it’s been in decades, and auto workers are making record wages. The auto industry is at an 18-year high for employment and wages have soared during the Biden administration, while, according to PolitiFact, “The majority of Trump’s trade deals and tariffs hurt the auto industry or had no significant impact during his presidency. In particular, Trump’s 2018 tariffs on steel and aluminum significantly hurt the U.S. auto industry.” [Media Matters, 3/18/24; Politifact, 10/5/23]
  • Right-wing media, Trump, and the fossil fuel industry misleadingly claim that the new rule will ban people from buying new gas-powered cars

    • The new rule will not force anyone to drive an electric car, and multiple articles have dispelled the false narrative that the new clean car standard is a ban on gas-powered cars. As The New York Times explained, “The rule does not mandate sales of electric vehicles, and consumers can still buy and drive gas-powered cars. Rather, it requires car makers to meet tough new average emissions limits across their entire product lines; it’s up to manufacturers to decide how to meet those limits.” The rule also does not apply to used vehicle sales. [The New York Times, 3/20/24; FactCheck.org, 2/20/24]
    • Nevertheless, in a joint statement, oil and gas trade group executives claimed that the rule would “function like a ban.” “As much as the President and EPA claim to have ‘eased’ their approach, nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President Chet Thompson and American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers in a joint statement, “This regulation will make new gas-powered vehicles unavailable or prohibitively expensive for most Americans. For them, this wildly unpopular policy is going to feel and function like a ban.”  [American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, 3/20/24]
    • Fox News framed its coverage of the rule around this joint statement. One subheadline read, “‘This regulation will make new gas-powered vehicles unavailable or prohibitively expensive for most Americans,’ lead industry groups say.” [Fox News, 3/20/24]
    • Trump’s official campaign account posted on X: “Crooked Joe Biden’s INSANE and RADICAL EV mandates will BAN your gasoline-powered vehicles and force you to buy expensive and unreliable electric vehicles. President Trump will always protect your FREEDOM to drive what you want!” [Twitter/X, 3/20/24]
    • Fox host Sean Hannity called the rule “a ban” and claimed that the administration is “finding any way they can to trick you, the American people, into supporting something that many Americans don't want.” Fox contributor Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, said, “I think all of us want to do something about carbon emissions etcetera, but the best way to do it is not through command and control mandates that will not work.” [Fox News, Hannity, 3/20/24]
    • Right-wing writer Jim Rickards urged people to buy a new car “soon” because “Biden is banning internal combustion engines in 2030.” He added: “Climate alarm is a hoax. Biden's efforts to destroy the auto, oil and natural gas industries are real.” [Twitter/X, 3/20/24]
    • On The Ingraham Angle, Power the Future’s Daniel Turner claimed that the Biden administration will “definitely use their coercive power of government to regulate the fossil fuel industry out of existence.” He added that “that means gas-powered cars, as well as all gas-powered appliances — leaf blowers, lawn mowers, etc.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 3/19/24]
    • Fox Business host Charles Payne suggested that the rule will make it “de facto illegal to sell internal combustion engine cars.”  [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 3/19/24]
    • The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld compared the rule to banning “classic rock” in favor of “alternative rock” and attacked “the hubris of thinking that alternatives can replace the classic.”  “You can’t force a tech on a public when both the tech and the public aren’t ready. … When Nirvana exploded onto the music scene, we didn’t immediately ban Creedence Clearwater or Lynyrd Skynyrd.” [Fox News, The Five, 3/19/24]
  • The new rule is a win for public health, would significantly reduce toxic pollution that is driving climate change, and could save consumers money

    • Pollution from gas-powered vehicles kills. One study estimated that up to 20,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to “transportation air pollution.” By 2055, the EPA predicts that the new standard will “remove nearly 10 billion tons of carbon emissions … reducing fine particulate matter in the air that can have negative health effects and potentially saving up to $1.6 trillion.”  [The Hill, 12/13/21; The Detroit News, 4/12/23]
    • The transition to EVs is a key pillar of the Biden administration's plan to combat the climate crisis, as the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors of climate change-causing pollution.  [United States Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 3/21/24]
    • A transition to EVs would make drivers less vulnerable to high gas prices and the whims of the global oil market. Reporting on the EPA proposal, MarketWatch noted that it “would strengthen American energy security by reducing reliance on 20 billion barrels of imported oil.” [MarketWatch, 4/12/23]