By Eric Beech
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. Feb 18 President Barack
Obama on Tuesday directed federal agencies to develop higher
fuel standards for medium-sized and heavy trucks, another step
in his efforts to slash oil consumption and carbon emissions
blamed for global warming.
Obama made the announcement in Upper Marlboro, Maryland,
about 20 miles (32 km) from Washington, at a distribution center
for Safeway grocery stores, next to a trucking rig that had been
redesigned to increase fuel economy.
"Everybody who says you can't grow the economy while
bringing down pollution, it's turned out they've been wrong,"
Automakers are already working to nearly double the average
fuel economy of new U.S. cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per
gallon by 2025, under rules that took effect in 2012.
The administration will now direct the Environmental
Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to
develop new rules for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel
efficiency by March 2016, with a draft due a year before that.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Anthony
Foxx were on hand for Obama's announcement.
The new rules will build on standards already in place for
model years 2014-18 for those larger vehicles, including
semi-trailers and "big rigs" as well as so-called vocational
vehicles, which include delivery trucks, buses and garbage
trucks, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans.
The White House estimates that the first phase of fuel
efficiency standards for trucks will save a projected 530
million barrels of oil.
The second phase "will take us well into the next decade,"
Obama said. "The goal we're setting is ambitious, but these are
areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far.
Don't make small plans, make big plans."
In 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented just 4 percent of
registered vehicles on the road in the United States, but they
accounted for approximately 25 percent of on-road fuel use and
greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
News of the new fuel standards was welcomed by some of the
biggest operators of truck fleets in the United States, who have
formed an informal alliance, the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency
The new standards "will be an important milestone
that should result in significant benefits to our economy, the
trucking industry and the environment," said Douglas Stotlar,
president and chief executive officer of Con-way Inc,
the nation's third-largest freight company.
Among the other companies in the fuel efficiency group are
engine-maker Cummins Inc. ; transmission systems
manufacturer Eaton Corp ; global courier Fedex Corp
; Wabash National Corp, a large semi-trailer
maker; and Waste Management Inc., which operates the
largest U.S. fleet of garbage and waste trucks.
Navistar International Corp, a maker of commercial
trucks, praised the administration's decision to consult
industry at the outset of the rule-making process and said the
push for increased economy was one that truck buyers and
"Our customers continue to look for every percent of fuel
economy improvement and that makes finding new solutions an
ongoing priority for us," said Denny Mooney, Navistar's group
vice president for global product development.
The large combination trucks commonly known as 18-wheelers
haul about 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United
States, according to White House estimates.
"The fuel costs associated with shipping goods cross-country
heavily impact the price of everything from a carton of milk to
a pair of shoes," said Mark Cooper, director of research with
the Consumer Federation of America.
Domestic oil refiners would not necessarily suffer if the
new standards reduced U.S. fuel usage outright or slowed demand
in the next decade.
The three largest U.S. independent refiners - Valero Energy
Corp, Philips 66 and Marathon Petroleum Corp
- have increased refined product export capacity at
their U.S. Gulf of Mexico plants. Export demand is surging on a
lack of refining capacity in some countries.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the
United States exported 3 million barrels per day of refined
products in November 2013. The United States became a net
exporter of refined products in 2011 for the first time in 49
FLURRY OF CLIMATE ANNOUNCEMENTS
Development of new truck fuel standards is another sign of
the administration's efforts to address climate change and
convince Americans of the urgent need to take action.
By ordering federal agencies to develop new standards, Obama
is able to act on his own and sidestep Congress, which remains
divided on climate policy.
While in California on Friday, touring part of that state's
severe drought zone, Obama warned that a warming planet is
intensifying the severity of droughts and other extreme weather
"Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that
causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse," he
The trucking announcement also followed a climate-focused
speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jakarta on
Sunday. And on Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is
scheduled to make what has been termed a "major announcement" on
the administration's energy strategy.
Obama also renewed his appeal for Congress to end $4 billion
a year in subsidies to the oil and gas industry and urge
lawmakers to establish a $2 billion "energy security trust" to
support development of advanced vehicles that run on
electricity, homegrown biofuels, hydrogen, and domestically
produced natural gas.
The $2 billion in spending would be drawn from revenues
generated by federal oil and gas development.