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President announces tougher fuel standards for heavy trucks

Trucks will roll down the Interstate more efficiently states President Obama.
Trucks will roll down the Interstate more efficiently states President Obama.
Mark Butkus

Following up on his State of the Union pledge to get tough on the environment, President Barack Obama announced stricter fuel standards for heavy trucks yesterday in Maryland.

Speaking at a Safeway Distribution Center in Upper Marlboro, the president said that his new package was a "win-win-win" proposition. President Obama's three stated "wins" were: improved gas mileage drives down America's dependency on foreign oil; carbon emissions are reduced and; lower fuel costs for business would result in lower prices for consumers.

The truck plan is an extension of the president's fuel efficiency targets for cars and light trucks introduced during his first term in office. That program aimed to raise fuel economy standards by eight miles per gallon to 35.5 miles per gallon for a new vehicle by 2016.

With that target in sight, the president stated that his administration was going to establish an even more ambitious target for cars and light trucks. The president's new targets will double the distance traveled per gallon of gas by 2025. Resulting fuel savings at the pump are estimated to be more than $8,000 over time, the president said to applause in front of Safeway employees.

The second round of fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will reach well into the next decade as well. The president directed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to develop and issue the new fuel standards by March 2016. Savings generated from the first round of truck measures was estimated at $50 billion in fuel costs and approximately 530 million barrels of oil.

Responsible for shipping about 70 percent of all domestic freight in America, transport trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles represent just four percent of all vehicles in the United States. However, the fuel expended and the greenhouse gases emitted from these vehicles account for one-quarter of the total emissions and fuel used within the transportation sector. The SuperTruck program launched in 2010 is focused on demonstrating that the efficiency of transport trucks can be improved by 50 percent by 2015.

In partnership with the Department of Energy and four major engine and truck manufacturers the SuperTruck program expects to increase overall fuel economy from about 6.5 miles per gallon to about 9.75 miles per gallon. Since 2010, SuperTruck partners Cummins and Peterbilt have demonstrated a 20 percent increase in engine efficiency and a 70 percent increase in freight efficiency, reaching over 10 miles per gallon under real world driving conditions.

The other truck manufacturers in the program are on the road to 50 percent fuel economy increases through aerodynamic improvements and engine efficiency technologies that include waste heat recovery. Daimler Trucks of North America has demonstrated 50 percent engine efficiency and Volvo has demonstrated 48 percent engine efficiency.

"Five years ago, we set out to break our dependence on foreign oil," said the president as he outlined his administrations energy objectives. "And today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades. For the first time in nearly 20 years, America produces more oil here at home than we buy from other countries. Our levels of dangerous carbon pollution that contributes to climate change has actually gone down even as our production has gone up. And 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 harmful pollution, and it creates new advances in American technology."

These measures and objectives reflect the "all-of-the-above approach" to develop made-in-America energy solutions and reduce carbon emissions that the president set forth in his 2013 Climate Action Plan and reiterated during last month's State of the Union address.

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