Obama shifts truck fuel efficiency into high gear

Source: By ERICA MARTINSON, Politico • Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

President Barack Obama touted his new push for more fuel-efficient heavy-duty trucks on Tuesday as a win for the economy and the environment — and one that he can do without Congress.

“In my State of the Union I said this would be a year of action, and I meant it,” he said in a speech at a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Obama said enormous progress had been made in the two years since the White House, EPA and the Transportation Department joined with auto companies and environmentalists to hammer out new mileage standards for cars and light-duty trucks.

“We’re going to double the distance our cars and light trucks can go on a gallon of gas by 2025,” he said.

That will cut U.S. oil consumption by 8 billion barrels, he said, and some cars are already beating the target of more than 55 miles per gallon.

“Today, we’re taking the next step,” he said.

Heavy-duty trucks account for just 4 percent of all the trucks on the highway, Obama said, but those trucks are responsible for 20 percent of fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions on the road.

So “every mile we gain in fuel efficiency [from heavy-duty trucks] is worth thousands of dollars every year,” he said

Doing so would also drive down foreign oil imports and cut down on carbon pollution, he said.

Obama directed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to issue a new rule for heavy-duty trucks by March 2015 with final implementation a year later.

And in the meantime, Obama said the administration was “offering new tax credits, both for companies that manufacture heavy-duty alternative-fuel vehicles and those that build fuel infrastructure so that trucks running on biodiesel or natural gas or hybrid electric technology, they’ll have more places to fill up.”

But those credits will require the approval of Congress, since they are part of a budget proposal. Obama wants to repeal $4 billion in oil and gas tax incentives and replace them with a $2 billion investment in various U.S.-based biofuel, natural gas, and related technologies, along with a $200 million tax credit for building out infrastructure that would support advanced vehicles, and an extension of an expired tax credit for producers of cellulosic biofuels.

“The goal we’re setting is ambitious, but these are areas where ambition has worked out well for us in the past. Don’t make small plans; make big plans,” he said.

So far, 23 companies have joined the government’s “national clean fleets partnership” — including some that are competitors.

If UPS and FedEx “can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same,” he said.

“Every time somebody says, ‘You can’t grow the economy while bringing down pollution,’ it’s turned out they’ve been wrong. Anybody who says, ‘We can’t compete when it comes to clean-energy technologies like solar and wind,’ they’ve had to eat those words. You can’t bet against American workers or American industry.”




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