Obama Sets Deadline for Big-Truck Climate Rule

<p>President Obama wants to complete climate rules for trucks well before he leaves office.</p>
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Feb. 18, 2014, 1:21 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama is dir­ect­ing fed­er­al agen­cies to com­plete the next round of car­bon-emis­sions and fuel-ef­fi­ciency stand­ards for large and me­di­um-sized trucks by March 2016, the White House said Tues­day.

Obama an­nounced the dead­line at a Safe­way dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter in Up­per Marl­boro, Md., where he cast the plan as a way to help con­sumers and the cli­mate while boost­ing U.S. en­ergy se­cur­ity.

“Im­prov­ing gas mileage for these trucks are go­ing to drive down our oil im­ports even fur­ther. That re­duces car­bon pol­lu­tion even more, cuts down on busi­nesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for con­sumers,” Obama said. “It’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win.”

The En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency and the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment are craft­ing their second round of ef­fi­ciency and emis­sions stand­ards for me­di­um- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as big rigs, buses, large pickups, garbage trucks, and de­liv­ery vans.

The first round of stand­ards, com­pleted in 2011, cov­er mod­el years 2014-2018, while the new rules will “reach well in­to the next dec­ade,” the White House said.

Com­mer­cial truck­ing fleets and oth­er large, work­horse vehicles rep­res­ent a big op­por­tun­ity to re­duce heat-trap­ping car­bon-di­ox­ide emis­sions and curb oil use, of­fi­cials say.

Ac­cord­ing to the White House, in 2010 heavy-duty vehicles ac­coun­ted for about a quarter of the “on-road” fuel de­mand and emis­sions from trans­port­a­tion, even though they’re only 4 per­cent of the vehicles on the road.

The stand­ards cov­er­ing mod­el years 2014-18 are es­tim­ated to cut fuel costs by $50 bil­lion and save 530 mil­lion bar­rels of oil over the life of the vehicles, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

The next round of truck stand­ards are part of the second-term cli­mate plan the pres­id­ent un­veiled last June. The dead­line an­nounced Tues­day un­der­scores White House ef­forts to have ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions on cli­mate com­pleted well be­fore Obama leaves of­fice. 

EPA is fa­cing a sep­ar­ate dead­line in June of this year to un­veil draft car­bon-emis­sions rules for the na­tion’s ex­ist­ing power plants, and must com­plete them a year later.

Tues­day’s event marks the second time in re­cent days that Obama has per­son­ally pro­moted pieces of his cli­mate-change agenda.

On Fri­day, in Cali­for­nia, he touted a pro­pos­al to cre­ate a $1 bil­lion “Cli­mate Re­si­li­ence Fund” to help com­munit­ies and farm­ers pre­pare for ex­treme weath­er that’s ex­pec­ted to be worsened by glob­al warm­ing. But that pro­pos­al faces huge polit­ic­al hurdles on Cap­it­ol Hill.

EPA and the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment are craft­ing the truck reg­u­la­tions un­der their ex­ist­ing au­thor­it­ies.

The two agen­cies have pre­vi­ously teamed up to com­plete two rounds of mileage and emis­sions rules for pas­sen­ger cars and light trucks — the first cov­ers mod­el years 2011-2016 and the second cov­ers 2017-2025. Those rules will re­quire auto­makers to meet a fleet-wide av­er­age for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles-per-gal­lon in 2025.

Obama on Tues­day touted ad­min­is­tra­tion fuel-eco­nomy ef­forts in not­ing that rising U.S. oil-pro­duc­tion levels re­cently began sur­pass­ing the na­tion’s fall­ing oil-im­port levels for the first time in 20 years, while car­bon emis­sions also have fallen in re­cent years.

“One of the reas­ons why is be­cause we ded­ic­ated ourselves to man­u­fac­tur­ing new cars and new trucks that go farther on a gal­lon of gas, and that saves fam­il­ies money, it cuts down on harm­ful pol­lu­tion, and cre­ates new ad­vances in Amer­ic­an tech­no­logy,” Obama said.

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