RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s another commonplace item that Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to crack down on: trucks.
A GOP group is attacking U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC) and several other Democrats in the U.S. House over their votes to support tougher standards on greenhouse gas emissions from some types of trucks.
The claim is reminiscent of one made by the same group in April, when it alleged that some Democrats want to ban gas stoves.
This latest argument includes some hefty dollar amounts tied to higher costs — but do those figures paint the full picture?
THE CLAIM: Nickel and other “extreme” House Democrats are “coming after our trucks” because they “voted to effectively increase the costs of trucks for everyday Americans … from over $2,500 for F-250s to over $8,300 for semi-trucks,” according to a statement from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
THE FACTS: “No, people are not coming for your trucks,” said Tim Johnson, an expert on automotive emissions and a professor of the practice at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
It refers to a vote last month to void stronger emissions standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a wide range of heavy-duty engines, the first step in the Clean Trucks Plan. Manufacturers of vehicles ranging from F-250 pickup trucks to semis would be required to meet those tougher standards by the 2027 model year.
Nickel voted no — which means he voted in favor of the tougher EPA rules — and so did the other six Congressional Democrats from North Carolina. All seven Republicans from the state voted yes, meaning they oppose the EPA’s rule changes, and the measure passed 221-203.
The Senate also voted to overturn the rule, but the White House has said President Joe Biden will veto it.
The rule would cover nitrogen oxides and other air pollutants those trucks produce. In North Carolina alone, medium-duty and heavy-duty gas and diesel vehicles produce 26 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions but make up slightly more than three percent of the state’s registered vehicle fleet, according to the state department of environmental quality.
“I think that continuing to modernize our vehicles in order to prevent health risks is a worthwhile investment in our community,” Nickel said in a statement in response to the NRCC claim. “The cost and risk of not taking action now far outweighs the cost of the implementation of this rule.”
NRCC spokeswoman Delanie Bomar says the dollar figures in the claim come from the EPA, which estimates the technology to meet those new standards will cost between $2,568 and $8,304 per truck.
The American Truck Dealers Association says those proposed standards will cause new commercial truck prices to skyrocket, leading sales to show down. It says the toughest option considered by the EPA would increase the price of a new truck by as much as $42,000, and argues that instead of persuading people to purchase greener vehicles, those high costs will incentivize people to keep their older trucks that emit more pollutants for longer.
Johnson says there “will be a cost of compliance — so that’s not in doubt.”
He says that while the EPA’s proposed rules are technology neutral and don’t require new vehicles be electric, meeting those standards “would be very hard to do” without moving to an electric powertrain.
“Electric vehicles currently cost more than their gasoline or diesel counterpart,” Johnson said. “That’s changing, primarily as the cost of batteries comes down, we’re probably not that far from reaching price parity. But at the moment, it is true that electric vehicles cost more. And again, under the EPA rules, you know, really the only way to comply would be electrification.”
But there’s a flip side to that: Over the long term, that higher purchase price should be offset by lower maintenance costs.
The proposed rule would extend warranty coverage for those trucks — which is currently at 100,000 miles — to 450,000 miles.
“The total cost of owning and operating is indeed lower than that, again, of a gasoline or diesel counterpart,” Johnson said. “It may be more expensive to buy — and, again, that’s changing — but your per-mile fuel cost, electricity versus gasoline or diesel, is lower for an electric vehicle.
“And then electric motors with batteries attached have far, far, far fewer moving parts than a gasoline or diesel engine and are easier to maintain and a lot cheaper to maintain,” he added.