STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A few years ago, I had a chance to visit the headquarters of an electric car manufacturer in China. An electric taxi carried me there from the airport to see a sprawling factory where hundreds of people in identical uniforms poured out during a shift change. It was part of China's effort to lead the world in electric vehicle manufacturing. Today in Washington, President Biden issues proposals to ensure the United States leads. The president's push for U.S. automakers to accelerate their EV production is intended to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change, as well as create jobs. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid joins us now. Good morning.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's the president proposing?
KHALID: Well, there are a couple of major initiatives. The first one is an executive order that sets a goal that by the end of this decade, half of all new cars sold in the United States will be zero-emission vehicles. This is a target, of course. There's really no enforcement here. But basically what this means is it puts a huge focus on electric vehicles. And executives from carmakers such as Ford and GM will be at the White House today to show support for this big shift to electric cars. Separately, the administration also plans to announce new rules on fuel mileage and emission standards.
INSKEEP: Oh, emission standards, which I guess would be easier to meet if you're making electric cars. What will the standards be?
KHALID: So a bit of background here. These standards have been yo-yoing the past couple of years. Former President Obama had set rules for mileage and emission standards to improve every year by 5%. But then former President Donald Trump came into office, and he rolled those targets back to 1.5%. The thing is, the state of California also has set up its own standards, a deal with car manufacturers that sets a standard between those two numbers. It's 3.7%.
KHALID: So, I know, a lot of numbers there. The White House did not reveal specific numbers of what its new standards would be last night on a call with reporters. But we had been told that it's going to build off of the California framework for the next few years. And then after that, they'll plan a schedule of what it'll look like after that. And it's been described as the most robust standards ever set.
That being said, we have also heard from environmental groups that they don't feel like these standards go far enough. And what I will say, Steve, is no matter what these standards are, you know, history has shown us that they can easily be changed when a president of the opposite party comes into office.
INSKEEP: Just as you've been describing. But suppose the new standards stay in place for a while. How would they fit into the president's broader agenda?
KHALID: So there seems to be an assumption baked in here that the electric vehicle market will grow in part because of investments that Democrats want to make in this field. You know, the president has called for billions of dollars to boost the electric car market by building additional infrastructure, things like electric vehicle charging stations. This is, of course, all part of this big infrastructure and jobs plan that Democrats are trying to get through Congress right now. At the same time, you know, the president has set this target to cut emissions in half by 2030. And so he's putting a big emphasis on how to do that through electric vehicles.
What I will say, though, Steve, is, you know, what you pointed out at the outset - this focus is not just about climate. It is about China. And so many of the policies out of this White House put competition with China front and center. And this is, frankly, no different. You know, the president and his administration is worried that China is cornering the global electric vehicle market, and they need, they feel, to act quickly and aggressively to prevent that.
INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid, thanks as always.
KHALID: My pleasure.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.