In late July of this year, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg proudly announced yet another way to destroy the economy. The Biden administration quietly pushed its war against fuel-powered cars to the next level by introducing aggressive new fuel economy standards.
The NHTSA proposed standards that mandate a 2% improvement in fuel efficiency for passenger cars and a 4% improvement for light trucks, with these requirements coming into effect in 2027. Furthermore, the rules stipulate that pickup trucks and work vans must show a 10% boost in fuel efficiency each year, starting in 2030.
The standards dictate that automakers more than double their fuel efficiency within the span of less than a decade, with significant penalties awaiting those who fail to meet these new benchmarks. The agency acknowledged that the standards would cost automakers an estimated $236.5 billion and cause car prices to rise by more than $1,000.
Meet Ann Carlson, the climate extremist who is running the show as NHTSA acting director despite failing a Senate confirmation for the role. Carlson’s nomination to lead the NHTSA was withdrawn by the White House in May due to criticism over her prior climate activism.
Nevertheless, she continues as the agency’s acting administrator and played a key role in introducing the new, unsustainably strict federal fuel efficiency standards designed to cripple the automotive industry while ensuring standard vehicles become too expensive for the average American to purchase.
In a loophole exploited by the Biden administration, Carlson can technically serve as the acting administrator of the agency because her nomination was withdrawn prior to a floor vote. In other words, the administration achieved its goal of installing her on the NHTSA throne by avoiding a process that would have blocked her appointment.
But every loophole has its own loophole. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, it’s prohibited for a nominated person to act in an office’s capacity if they haven’t served as the first assistant for over 90 days before the former officeholder’s resignation. This provision, according to Republican lawmakers, disqualifies Carlson from her current position as acting administrator of NHTSA. Carlson was nominated for the position even though she wasn’t confirmed.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Cynthia Lummis are set to introduce a bill as an amendment to the fiscal year 2024 appropriations package. This bill aims to remove the federal salary of Carlson, effectively defunding her role overseeing stringent fuel efficiency regulations within the Biden administration.
In January 2021, the Biden-Harris transition team brought in Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at UCLA, to work as the chief counsel for NHTSA. While this position didn’t require Senate confirmation, it gave her a role in critical agency activities, such as shaping fuel economy standards.
In February 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Carlson to head NHTSA, and her nomination was sent to the Senate Commerce Committee in March. Her nomination encountered strong opposition, mainly led by Senator Cruz and fellow Republicans on the Commerce Committee. Their concerns were centered around her background in environmental activism and her vision to shift NHTSA’s focus toward climate-related matters.
On May 30, 2021, the White House withdrew her nomination. But Carlson continues in her capacity as NHTSA’s acting administrator, with the White House yet to propose an alternative, essentially making her the agency’s leader for the foreseeable future.
In a letter to President Joe Biden, Republican lawmakers observed that the White House is bypassing constitutional requirements by permitting Carlson to serve as the acting leader of NHTSA. Senator Ted Cruz and twelve other Republicans assert that Carlson needs to be removed from her position immediately and that a qualified and capable candidate should be nominated to take on the role.
Cruz also raised concerns about the legality of Carlson’s decisions as acting director of NHTSA. He points out that during her tenure, the agency has proposed its most aggressive fuel economy standards, which some experts warned could lead to significantly higher car prices and a push for electric vehicle purchases.
Cruz criticized the Biden administration’s focus on electric vehicles and suggested that the ongoing strike in the auto sector is a result of the administration’s push to phase out traditional gas-powered vehicles. He observes that Biden’s appointment of Carlson, despite her Senate rejection, reflects a broader agenda that will lead to more regulations, increased costs for families, and a less robust economy.
Of course, what Republicans see as problematic, like increased financial hardship for struggling Americans, Democrats see as a “win.” The climate warrior who couldn’t secure Senate approval now wields power over NHTSA and is able to push through aggressive fuel economy standards that will hurt every American while progressives clap from the sidelines. This is far from the first time Democrats found a loophole to shove their agenda through, but it’s one of the few times they were called out.