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The Environmental Protection Agency announces new vehicle emission standards

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A day after Senator Joe Manchin dealt a critical blow to President Biden's climate ambitions, the administration has leaned into its executive authority to cut carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new tailpipe emission standards for the nation's cars. NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Transportation is the single largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the U.S. And auto emissions...

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR STARTING)

ROTT: ...The stuff we spew from our tailpipes, is a big chunk of that. It's also harmful to human health, contributing to asthma, cancer and heart issues. Nsedu Obot Witherspoon is executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NSEDU OBOT WITHERSPOON: Undisputed, peer-reviewed literature has shown us that there is significant association between neighborhood traffic and asthma and upper-respiratory-like issues among our children.

ROTT: Witherspoon and other climate and health advocates joined with top brass from the EPA to announce the ambitious, new car standards yesterday. And they will do a lot to reduce pollution. Here's EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL REGAN: We estimate that through the year 2050, this program will save American drivers up to $420 billion on fuel cost, gas that you won't have to put in the tank.

ROTT: The EPA says the new standards, which would mandate that new passenger vehicles average a label value of at least 40 miles per gallon by 2026, will cut billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, cuts that are needed if the U.S. wants to significantly reduce its outsized contribution to climate change. But Dan Becker with the Center for Biological Diversity feels they don't go far enough.

DAN BECKER: I think these rules are a little more a speed bump than the U-turn that they need it to be to avoid a climate catastrophe.

ROTT: Climate change is already here. And to avoid the most catastrophic scenarios Becker is alluding to, the U.S. needs to significantly cut its carbon footprint, a goal that suffered a major setback this week when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced he would not support a major climate bill. Becker says that means Biden is now limited.

BECKER: The president really has only one major option, to reduce climate-warming emissions. And that is strong clean car standards. And these aren't strong enough.

ROTT: Challenges to the new rules are likely from Republican-led states. But Becker doesn't think the auto industry, which fought against similar rules from the Obama administration, will put up much of a fight because auto manufacturers now sell to a global market. And the future is increasingly looking electric.

Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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