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Obama's Directive to EPA: Trucks to Get Leaner

Over strong objections from some auto and truck manufacturers, President Obama directed EPA to develop new fuel efficiency regulations for medium and heavy-duty trucks by March 2016 as part of his administration's effort to reduce carbon emissions.
February 19, 2014, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"United States car and truck manufacturers have lobbied heavily against aggressive increases in federal fuel economy standards, saying that they could increase vehicle prices and diminish safety," writes Coral Davenport. This will be the second round of truck fuel effiency regulations.

In 2011, the E.P.A. issued its first round of fuel-economy regulations for United States trucks and heavy-duty vehicles built in the model years 2014 to 2018, which the agency projects will reduce carbon pollution by 270 million metric tons, or the equivalent of taking 56 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year"

No doubt the president's executive action, enabled by the "1970 Clean Air Act, which requires the E.P.A. to regulate any substance designated as a pollutant that harms or endangers human health", writes Davenport, will displease many in Washington who feel that Congress should be in charge.

Mr. Obama’s direction is among several executive actions he is taking on climate change, absent movement from Congress. He has also directed the E.P.A. to issue by June 1 a draft regulation to rein in carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.

Increasing fuel efficiency standards for trucks is a significant step to reduce oil consumption and carbon emissions, according to Jesse-Prentice Dunn of the Sierra Club

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles, everything from 18-wheelers to delivery trucks, are the fastest growing source of oil consumption in the transportation sector. Even though these vehicles only make up seven percent of the vehicles on the road, they guzzle more than 25 percent of transportation fuel.

EPA will work with the "Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop and issue new fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 31, 2016," writes Aamer Madhani of USA Today.

In addition to "higher-efficiency engines", Prentice-Dunn points to other "new fuel saving technologies such as aerodynamic trailers, advanced materials and lower rolling resistance tires."

Not part of the president's announcement are other ways to reduce fuel consumption in the freight sector, such as "creat(ing) an energy-efficient, multi-modal freight system that relies on trains and ships, as well as trucks. When we’re smarter about what we ship and how we ship it, we save money and reduce carbon pollution", Prentice-Dunn writes.

As we previously noted, more stringent medium and heavy-duty truck efficiency standards come on top of increasing the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicle and light-duty trucks to 54.5 MPG by 2025. However, that goal will be reviewed in 2017, and with gas prices set to decrease in 2014 and 2015 according to the EIA, I wouldn't be surprised if that goal was tweaked to the benefit of the auto manufacturers. 

As we noted in our post last month on the Detroit Auto Show, "(t)rucks accounted for more than half of all light vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, a reversal from the prior year. The shift coincided with lower fuel prices." 

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Published on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 in The New York Times - Politics
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