Biden's goal of 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030 is too lax

By aiming so low, the President reveals his true goal: pleasing every party, even if it means sacrificing meaningful and crucial change in the process.

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President Joe Biden is all set to sign an executive order mandating that half of all vehicles sold in the United States should be all-electric or otherwise zero-emissions by 2030. Senior members of the administration told NBC News that Biden will sign the order later today, and the President also teased the announcement on his official Twitter account last night.

Like all executive orders, the 50 percent goal won’t actually force automakers to stop producing gas guzzlers because there’s nothing legally binding about it. Even so, the gesture will be the most united front we’ve seen from the Biden administration on emissions reform yet.

Executives from some of the country’s most prominent automakers are expected to present the executive order alongside Biden as a unified show of support. Ahead of the announcement, the so-called “Big Three” (Ford, GM, and Stellanis) released a joint statement in which they announced their “shared aspiration” to make 40 to 50 percent of their sales zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.

It’s about time — At this point, it would’ve been surprising if the federal government managed to put off a promise like this for much longer. The U.S. has lagged behind Europe and even China on setting and implementing EV goals.

Last year, the United Kingdom set itself a goal of banning all fossil fuel vehicles by 2030 and only allowing those vehicles to be on the road until 2035. Germany set an impressive goal to have a million charging stations across the country by the end of the decade, and the country is also investing in alt-fuels and cycling. The European Union is ready to ban all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2035.

Some automakers outside the U.S. have already pre-empted Biden’s announcement with goals of their own. Mercedez-Benz has committed to electrifying its entire lineup by 2030 “where market conditions allow;” Audi will launch only all-electric vehicles by 2026 and ditch combustion engines entirely by 2033; and Volvo is hoping to replace its entire lineup with all-electric vehicles by 2030.

Only 50 percent? — Biden’s executive order will be an important step toward reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 2030. But why only 50 percent? Well, the politics of it all, of course — 50 percent is a handy middle ground, low enough to please both automakers and moderate climate activists.

Here’s the problem: The middle ground isn’t going to save the planet. Climate change is now an inescapable daily reality, and it’s not going to stop getting worse unless those in power take extreme measures to combat it. A 50 percent commitment in the next decade means 50 percent of the country’s automobile output in a decade could still be gas-guzzlers.

A more robust goal might scare automakers, but the market will almost certainly be ready by 2030. Already research has shown that huge numbers of Americans plan to buy an electric vehicle as their next car.

Interestingly enough, the White House’s official release about the order cites the following reasons for its existence: “positioning America to drive the electric vehicle future forward, outcompete China, and tackle the climate crisis.” Pretty revealing that the administration is lumping in outcompeting China with its climate goals, don’t you think?