President Obama Calls for Next Phase of Fuel Efficiency Standards by 2016

During a speech Monday, President Barack Obama announced that he has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop and issue the next phase of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards by March 2016.

Under this timeline, the agencies are expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by March 2015. The first round of standards, finalized in 2011, cover model-years 2014 through 2018. According to a White House fact sheet, those standards are projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce GHG emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons, saving vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered.

Obama noted that although heavy-duty trucks account for just 4% of all vehicles on highways, they create about 20% of the carbon pollution that comes from the transportation industry. Therefore, he said, “every mile that we gain in fuel efficiency is worth thousands of dollars of savings every year.”

The White House fact sheet says the EPA and DOT will work closely with stakeholders, including the California Air Resources Board, to help develop the new standards and explore further opportunities for fuel consumption and emissions reductions beyond the model-year 2018. The two agencies will also assess advanced technologies and solutions such as engine and powertrain efficiency improvements, aerodynamics, weight reduction and hybridization.

Companies and advocacy groups have issued statements welcoming Obama's call for the next round of standards.

Ken Davis, president of Eaton Vehicle Group, says, “These goals and the ultimate outcomes from Phase II can be accomplished without compromising vehicle performance or inhibiting the choices the market or fleet customers have, given the wide array of current and future technologies available today and tomorrow.”

The Diesel Technology Forum has also weighed in: ‘Today'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,’ says Allen Schaeffer, the nonprofit's executive director, noting that clean diesel has already come a long way.

In his speech, President Obama also highlighted the success of the National Clean Fleets Partnership and renewed his call for Congress to support initiatives and policies that would lead to a cleaner U.S. transportation sector.

“So far, 23 companies have joined our National Clean Fleets Partnership to reduce their oil consumption or replace their old fleets of trucks with more fuel-efficient models,” Obama said. “And, collectively, they operate about 1 million commercial vehicles nationwide.

“So this is a lot of companies, and some of them are competitors. And if rivals like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, or UPS and FedEx, or AT&T and Verizon – if they can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same. Maybe Democrats and Republicans can get together.”

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