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As Feds Lock Down Emissions Laws, SEMA Picks Up Fight Against Gas Bans

mechanic using a ratchet wrench
SEMA Picks Up Fight Against Feds, Gas Bansljubaphoto - Getty Images

Automakers around the world have been actively participating in the EV race, working to get cars to market as soon as possible. And Wednesday's announcement that the EPA finalized strict new regulations for tailpipe emissions for model years 2027 to 2032 put an exclamation point on the current push toward EVs.

“The final rule builds upon EPA’s final standards for federal greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026 and leverages advances in clean car technology to unlock benefits to Americans ranging from improving public health through reducing smog- and soot-forming pollution from vehicles, to reducing climate pollution, to saving drivers money through reduced fuel and maintenance costs,” says the EPA (in one long run-on sentence).

According to NPR, the EPA expects that EVs could account for up to 56 percent of new 2030-2032 passenger vehicles. There is a sense of urgency here. "[T]ransportation accounted for the largest portion (29%) of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions," the EPA wrote in 2021. However, fans of gas-powered engines and the organizations that support the industry have concerns.

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SEMA/Instagram

SEMA Takes Action on Behalf of Combustion

One of the forces behind the battle for internal combustion is the Specialty Equipment Market Association, which formed the SEMA Action Network in 1997 to give its members, vehicle clubs, and enthusiasts a cohesive voice for causes like this. In case its charter isn’t clear, the organization’s motto is “Ignited We Stand.”

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And SEMA is not staying quiet about the final rulemaking, saying the EPA's decision will “create a seismic shift in the automotive industry,” adversely affecting small, independent businesses, including aftermarket parts manufacturers, retailers, distributors, installers, and even local repair businesses.

“Notably, one-third of consumer spending on performance and accessory products goes toward upgrading ICE vehicles and drive trains, and 25 percent of SEMA manufacturers produce ICE-related components,” SEMA said in a press release on the day of the EPA ruling. “This final rule will reduce consumer choice and increase the costs to purchase new vehicles. It will also disrupt the used car market as used ICE engine vehicle inventory will begin to decline, thus increasing prices and making it less affordable for those who need the used vehicle market for its typical affordability and accessibility.”

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Kristin Shaw

State Regulations Muddy the Waters

In October 2023, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill to prohibit internal combustion engine bans. The following month, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to defeat a bill that would have required the state to adopt California’s emissions standards and ban the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered motor vehicles starting in 2035. While the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in December that would bar the federal government from banning gas-powered cars for Americans, the fight continues.

In the last 30 years, more than 17 states have hitched their wagons to California’s emission policies, which include the ban of internal combustion engines over the next decade. Just last year, Virginia passed legislation to support California’s emission standards in a special session of the legislature.

SEMA SVP, Public and Government Affairs Karen Bailey-Chapman says SEMA doesn’t believe that California should have the authority to mandate policy for 40 percent of Americans outside of the Golden State.

“These EV mandates are coming in too much and too fast,” she says. “SEMA believes in an all-of-the-above approach. We don’t believe banning internal combustion is correct.”