U.S. transport chief not endorsing banning gas-vehicles after 2035

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks to members of the news media while visiting a UPS center that is delivering the COVID-19 vaccines to nearby District of Columbia and Maryland from Landover, Maryland, U.S., March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Thursday he was unaware of any support by the Biden administration to ban gas-powered vehicles after 2035 as California aims to do.

Asked by a lawmaker at a U.S. House hearing if the Biden administration supported California’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks in 2035, Buttigieg said he had “not heard of anything to that effect at the national or federal level.”

He did note that automakers like General Motors have set a goal of ending gas-powered passenger vehicle sales by 2035. “I’ve not heard of that in a mandatory context but that certainly seems to be where the U.S. auto industry is headed.”

During the 2020 campaign, Biden declined to endorse California’s plan.

This week, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers have called on President Biden to endorse banning gas-powered vehicles by a specific date.

On Wednesday, a group of more than 70 U.S. House Democrats led by Representative Doris Matsui urged Biden to set tough emissions rules to ensure that 60% of new passenger cars and trucks sold are zero-emission by 2030, while 10 U.S. senators led by Democrat Edward Markey urged Biden “to set a date by which new sales of fossil fuel vehicles will end entirely.”

Markey’s letter, which was also signed by Senators Richard Durbin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley and others, said it is essential “to ensure that we are on a trajectory to achieve the near-zero emission fleet that scientists have called for by 2050.”

The House letter urged Biden to adopt “ambitious post-2026 standards that put us on the path to having all light-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2035.”

On Monday, California’s two senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein also urged Biden to set a date to end gas-powered vehicle sales.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama