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Court Decision Leaves Biden With Few Tools to Combat Climate Change

Electric vehicle sales have doubled over the past year, making up about 5 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States in the first quarter of 2022, compared with about 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2021. General Motors has pledged to stop producing gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, with other carmakers setting similar goals. Ford Motor is producing an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, the country’s best-selling vehicle, and has taken customer reservations for more than 200,000 of them.

With the cost of solar and wind energy dropping below the price of coal and natural gas in many parts of the United States, renewable sources of electricity now make up 20 percent of the nation’s energy mix, up from 15 percent a decade ago.

But the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, combined with the war in Ukraine and the related ban on Russian oil, has scrambled global energy supplies, and prompted President Biden to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and urge producers to pump more oil, at least in the short term. Clean energy producers in the United States also face significant obstacles from an outdated electricity transmission system.

And the private sector is not moving quickly enough to cut emissions to the level that scientists say is needed to avert climate catastrophe. Mr. Biden wants half of new cars sold in the United States to be electric by 2030, and all electricity to come from wind, solar and other zero-carbon sources by 2035.

“We do see a powerful trend emerging in the private sector both driven by consumers who are demanding cleaner options, that is driving a shift in our energy mix, and toward electric vehicles, but that pace of change is really not sufficient to meet the long-term targets,” said Sasha Mackler, an energy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington research organization. “For that, you still need policy. The administration doesn’t have the right tools to get us all there. Success in the time that we need it, according to the scientific community — that requires Congress.”

Congress in the coming weeks could still pass a scaled-back version of the spending bill that has been stalled on Capitol Hill for months. A version of the bill that passed the House last year includes $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives for producers and purchasers of clean electricity and electric vehicles.

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