Trans­portation Sec­retary Pete Buttigeg touted the new reg­u­lation | Courtesy Flickr

On April 1, Pres­ident Joe Biden’s Department of Trans­portation raised the mileage standard of cars and light trucks to increase to 49 miles per gallon by 2026. Unfor­tu­nately, this wasn’t an April Fools’ prank: the new reg­u­lation is here to stay, and its impli­ca­tions will change the way Amer­icans drive. 

If 49 miles per gallon sounds high, that’s because it is. The current standard for cars and light trucks is 40 mpg – 33% less fuel-effi­cient than the new standard. At first glance, this new reg­u­lation looks great. Who wouldn’t want more miles per gallon of gas? 

Trans­portation Sec­retary Pete Buttigieg touted the new standard, saying “Amer­icans buying a new vehicle will spend less on gas than they would have if we hadn’t taken this step.” While it’s true that Amer­icans will spend a bit less on gas as a result of the reg­u­lation, there are other problems that the White House chose not to address.

One of these issues is the simple fact that asking the auto­motive industry to accom­plish such a tech­no­logical leap in five years will result in dra­matic changes to the con­struction of cars. According to the Daily Wire, these changes will likely include “more energy-effi­cient turbo-charged engines, direct fuel injection systems, and […] auto­matic shut-off fea­tures that turn cars off instead of allowing them to idle at red lights and parking lots.” All of this new tech­nology will be costly – and that cost will be reflected in the price of the car. 

Like gasoline, the price of new and used cars has sky­rocketed since Biden took office in 2020. Fortune reported the average price of a used car increased by 45% over the last year to a shocking $26,000. New cars have increased in price by a more modest 8% to $38,617, but inventory has decreased by 58% due to a variety of factors including supply chain issues and chip shortages. Now, with the new require­ments, the price of cars will increase even more. The few hundred dollars that Amer­icans might save at the gas pump each year will be offset by the thou­sands of dollars in increased prices of new cars.

According to the White House, however, the burden of paying thou­sands of dollars more for a car is a nec­essary sac­rifice for the sake of pre­venting “climate change.” Essen­tially, the new reg­u­la­tions are a tool of the Biden admin­is­tration to accom­plish their climate agenda – by forcing auto man­u­fac­turers to produce, and Amer­icans to pur­chase, electric or hybrid vehicles.

This strategy is both out-of-touch and counter-pro­ductive. First, pur­chasing an electric vehicle is not a solution to high gas prices. Most Amer­icans who are frus­trated by the price of gas do not have tens of thou­sands of dollars to spend on a Tesla, despite what Stephen Colbert thinks. Second, replacing tra­di­tional cars with hybrid or electric vehicles is actually less climate-friendly, not more. Politico reported that “wide­spread adoption of electric vehicles nationwide will likely increase air pol­lution com­pared with new internal com­bustion vehicles. You read that right: more electric cars and trucks will mean more pollution.”

This is because electric vehicles are charged from America’s elec­trical grid – which is mostly powered by fossil fuels. What’s more, the bat­teries used to power electric vehicles contain rare min­erals such as lithium and cobalt, and extracting these min­erals is envi­ron­men­tally damaging. 

According to a Guardian interview, “There’s a fun­da­mental question behind all this about the model of con­sumption and pro­duction that we now have, which is simply not sus­tainable […] Everyone having an electric vehicle means an enormous amount of mining, refining and all the pol­luting activ­ities that come with it.” 

Overall, pushing Amer­icans to switch to “greener” vehicles in just five years – or at all – is not going to solve out-of-control gas prices, and it is cer­tainly not going to prevent climate change. The Biden admin­is­tration must get back in touch with reality, because telling Amer­icans that they need to buy expensive cars in the midst of record inflation is not a winning strategy.