Obama calls for more efficiency, greenhouse-gas standards for trucks

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2014 - President Obama said he is directing EPA and the Transportation Department to develop the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles by March 2016.

The White House said the plan will bolster energy security, cut carbon pollution and spur manufacturing innovation. The proposal includes a $200 million tax credit for companies that invest in advanced vehicles and infrastructure. To view a White House report on the announcement, click here.

“From day one, we've known we had to rebuild our economy and transition to a clean-energy future, and we knew it wouldn't be easy or quick, and we've got a lot of work to do on both counts,” Obama said Tuesday. “But the economy is growing. We're creating jobs. We're generating more clean energy. We're cutting our dependence on foreign oil.”

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The White House said this second round of fuel efficiency standards will build on the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which were expected to save an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs and the country a projected 530 million barrels of oil.

The tax credit proposal would be fuel neutral, allowing the private sector to determine if biofuels, electrification, natural gas, hydrogen, or other alternative fuels would be the best fit in different communities. In addition, the president is proposing to extend the cellulosic biofuel producer tax credit that expired at the end of 2013.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, said he is urging the administration to continue efforts to issue maximum feasible nationally coordinated fuel economy regulations, based on the successful methodology used to date.

“I am encouraged by President Obama's willingness to bring climate change back to the forefront of our national debate, and I look forward to working in Congress to not only mitigate its dangerous effects but also address its root causes,” Carper said.

Carper said U.S. automobile companies have reacted to fuel economy standards with many innovations. The senator said one such example is the 2015 Ford F-150 that is set to get 30 miles per gallon due to shedding 700 pounds by going to an aluminum body. Providing a higher bar for auto manufacturers to reach in model years beyond 2018 will drive even greater advances in fuel economy, Carper said.

“Heavy-duty trucks represent a major opportunity to cut oil consumption and carbon pollution,” the senator said. He noted that in 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented just 4 percent of registered vehicles on the road in the U.S., but they accounted for approximately 25 percent of on-road fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

The Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) said the shift to new clean-diesel technology is delivering significant societal benefits.

Obama's announcement “sets up the next challenge for clean diesel technology to further improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial vehicles including medium and heavy duty trucks and buses,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director.  He said engine and vehicle makers have all met the first set of Phase I standards for higher fuel efficiency in the current 2014 products that are now certified and for sale.

“In 2012, the fleet of clean diesel trucks reduced emissions by 1 million tons and reduced particulate matter by 27,000 tons,” Schaeffer said. “This is the same amount of reduction that would result from removing 87 million light duty cars and trucks from the road for one year, and the same amount of particulate matter reduction as removing 225 million cars and trucks for one year.”

Leaders of the American Trucking Associations, while supporting the goal of improved fuel efficiency of large trucks, reacted cautiously to the announcement.

“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,” noted ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “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.”

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