The Obama administration on Friday announced plans to tighten fuel-economy standards for heavy trucks, buses and vans, taking aim at a transportation sector that contributes a quarter of the greenhouse-gas pollution emitted by U.S. vehicles each year.
The proposed regulations would require truck manufacturers to dramatically improve engine efficiency over the next 12 years in an effort to cut down on fuel consumption and reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions blamed for global warming, administration officials said.
The measures, the latest in a series of White House initiatives aimed at addressing the causes of climate change, follow a 2012 effort to cut emissions from cars, as well as a proposal earlier this month to begin the process of reducing pollution from airliners.
Administration officials said the regulations, proposed jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would affect new vehicles beginning in the 2021 model year, and would be fully phased in by 2027. The standards would apply to medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, a class that includes large trucks and buses as well as large pick-up trucks and vans.
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The specific fuel standards would vary depending on vehicle size, and class, but EPA officials said fuel consumption would improve by about 24 percent over current standards.
“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With emission reductions weighing in at 1 billion tons, this proposal will save consumers, businesses and truck owners money; and at the same time spur technology innovation and job-growth, while protecting Americans’ health and our environment over the long haul.”
The EPA said the proposals, if finalized, would reduce oil consumption by nearly 2 billion barrels and lower carbon emissions by 1 billion metric tons. Industry analysts said the proposals would raise manufacturing costs by as much as $12,000 to $14,000 for a large truck.
Opposition to the proposals was expected to be relatively mild, as the standards were developed in consultation with major truck manufacturers and reflect efficiency goals that industry analysts say can be achieved with existing technology.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Chester France, a former senior official with the EPA’s Assessments and Standards Division. He said he thought the efficiency improvement was “very, very reasonable.”
William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air pollution control agencies in 41 states, said the reductions would “benefit, literally, every community across the nation.”
“The beauty of the proposal is that the cost of the necessary improvements, which are generally off-the-shelf technologies, will be paid for by the savings associated with the increased fuel efficiency – about one-third better than today – in a matter of a couple of years,” he said.
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The Obama administration has touted gains in automobile fuel efficiency as one of its signature environmental achievements, one that officials say will lead to dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as well as substantial savings in fuel costs for consumers. The White House has pledged to reduce overall carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025.
The new truck proposals also include tougher standards for trailers, requiring manufacturers to use light-weight materials and more aerodynamic designs to improve fuel economy. EPA officials say higher sticker prices for new trucks and buses would be recouped by savings in fuel consumption within two years.
The measures are subject to a 60-day comment period and could be finalized as early as late August.