Furthering the current push by many lawmakers to create more eco-friendly vehicles that will reduce and eliminate emissions, two California senators are now pressuring President Joe Biden to “follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.” This week, California senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein sent Biden a letter thanking him for his “early commitment to restoring clean car standards” but also urged that “California and other states need a strong federal partner.”

Padilla and Feinstein requested that Biden “maintain states’ authority to set vehicle emissions standards necessary to protect the health and welfare of their people.” The senators added that the Clean Air Act, which allows states to set their own standards, “balances states’ rights with the interests of a national manufacturing base…to set engine emission standards necessary to ensure everyone has clean air to breathe.” This authority had been revoked during the previous administration, and many emissions standards had been made more lenient.

California has undoubtedly been the state that has implemented the strictest measures in regard to emissions requirements. In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order stating that all new passenger vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2035 “to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector.” According to the order, medium- and heavy-vehicles have until 2045 to become zero-emissions “where feasible.”

This is one of the most aggressive steps that has been taken, with Newsom stating, “This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.” Padilla and Feinstein argued that California’s strict auto standards should be “the absolute minimum” nationwide. The letter also implored Biden to set a zero-emissions deadline date as part of the move to “address the threats of catastrophic climate change and harm to public health” they say are caused by our current technologies and transportation methods.

The senators’ letter to Biden also stated that “the automobile industry has shown it has the ingenuity and resources to reimagine our transportation systems in consumer-friendly ways.” While the senators are hopeful the auto industry as a whole will support their sense of urgency, automakers have cautiously gotten on board with the idea, as many have agreed to work towards more eco-friendly vehicles but are also negotiating for additional “credits” for the manufacturing of fully electric vehicles. How well consumers will receive the idea of purchasing and owning zero-emissions vehicles is another question altogether.

Transportation is currently the top source of pollution in the United States, and Biden campaigned on the promise that his administration will take serious measures to “address the climate emergency and lead through the power of example.” For example, back in January, Biden promised that vehicles owned by the federal government will be “replace[d] with clean, electric vehicles made right here in America by American workers.”

Last month, the United States Postal Service announced it awarded a 10-year, $482 million contract to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense, which is tasked with designing new delivery vehicles. While the goal is to eventually have a 100% electric fleet, Oshkosh’s vehicles “will be equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies.”

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