Obama orders tougher fuel efficiency rules for trucks

Source: Jason Plautz, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

President Obama ordered U.S. EPA and the Department of Transportation today to tighten fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks beyond model year 2018.

EPA and DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must develop the new standards by March 2016, with a proposal due in March 2015.

The standards, Obama said, are “another big step to grow our economy and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil,” emphasizing that the rules would help manufacturers develop new technology.

“Anyone who said you can’t grow the economy while reducing carbon pollution has been proven wrong,” Obama said at a distribution center for grocery store chain Safeway in Upper Marlboro, Md.

In 2011, the White House announced the first-ever standards for medium and heavy trucks, which required emission reductions ranging from 9 percent to 23 percent between 2014 and 2018. Those standards, the White House said, will save vehicle owners and operators $50 billion in fuel costs and reduce fuel use by 530 million barrels of oil.

Trucks make up just 4 percent of vehicles but account for 25 percent of fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, Obama said.

The White House, Obama said, would work with truck manufacturers and operators in setting the standards, building on the existing National Clean Fleets Partnership with 23 major corporations to work on increasing alternative fuels and efficiency gains for fleets. Among the companies in the partnership are Coca-Cola, Staples, UPS and Waste Management.

Obama also reiterated his call for Congress to end billions in federal subsidies to oil and gas companies, saying the money should be used for research and development into advanced vehicle technologies. Obama added he would call for a new tax credit for manufacturers, infrastructure supporting advanced fuel and alternative vehicles, and an extension of existing credits for cellulosic biofuels research.

Trucking companies, which largely backed the 2014-18 standards that could be met with existing technology, said they looked forward to working with EPA on the latest round of standards. In a statement, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said he hoped the administration would “set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable.”

“Fuel is one of our industry’s largest expenses, so it makes sense that as an industry we would support proposals to use less of it,” Graves said. “However, we should make sure that new rules don’t conflict with safety or other environmental regulations, nor should they force specific types of technology onto the market before they are fully tested and ready.”

The new standards are expected to require more technology improvements for engine and truck design. Trucking leaders and fleet owners have laid out priorities for the new standards, including that they’re consistent across federal agencies and with the state of California, are flexible for different types and weights of vehicles, and allow companies proper time for compliance.

Environmentalists expressed support for the new standards, saying they would build on the existing rules and fuel economy standards for trucks and light-duty vehicles that will double efficiency between 2012 and 2025.

Sierra Club President Michael Brune said the standards are “adding up to huge climate pollution reductions for our planet and massive savings for American drivers at the pump.”

“We have the technology to nearly double the fuel economy of tractor trailers, and now we need to put it to work,” Brune said in a statement. “By setting a next round of strong heavy-duty vehicle standards, the Obama administration can slash oil use, save consumers money, and cut dangerous pollution.”