WASHINGTON – President Obama moved ahead Tuesday with plans to further tighten restrictions on carbon emissions from trucks and buses, saying the new fuel efficiency rules will reduce pollution, save consumers money and help cut back on oil imports.
"It's not just a win-win, it's a win-win-win," Obama said in remarks delivered from a loading dock at a grocery distribution center. Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department to issue a first draft of the regulations for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2015 and to finalize the rules a year later.
His announcement at a Safeway warehouse in Maryland was the latest in a series of efforts to show he won't be hemmed in by a Congress unable to find consensus on how – or whether – to tackle climate change. Obama recently announced the creation of new "climate hubs" that will work with farmers and ranchers to prepare for shifts in weather conditions. On Friday, he said he would ask Congress for a $1-billion climate change resilience fund to pay for research into extreme weather.
The new fuel efficiency requirements will mark the second phase of the effort to reduce harmful pollutants by targeting trucks.
In 2011, the Obama administration completed fuel standards for trucks that call for a 20% reduction in heavy-vehicle emissions by 2018. Experts estimated manufacturers would need to boost fuel efficiency for trucks to an average of 8 miles per gallon to meet the new standards, up from 6 miles per gallon at the time of the announcement.
Those rules applied only to truck models for the years 2014 through 2018. The next round of regulations will set standards for models beyond 2018.
Heavy-duty trucks are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the road, behind passenger cars, the White House said. The 2011 regulations are projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce emissions by about 270 million metric tons, according to the White House, which estimates savings of $50 billion in reduced fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered.
The White House said the administration would work closely with the California regulators to ensure the new rules align with regulations drafted by the state's Air Resources Board. Manufacturers have warned about the prospect of two different sets of standards, while truckers have worried about the costs of upgrading to cleaner vehicles.
Obama's announcement Tuesday was met with cautious approval from the industry.
"ATA hopes the administration will set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable," said Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Assns.
Obama announced the timeline for the second phase of the standards from the Safeway facility in Upper Marlboro, Md., praising the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company for participating in a government program aimed at improving the efficiency of its vehicles. The program helped redesign trucks with better aerodynamics, more efficient tires and larger trailers – to boost fuel economy by 75%, Obama said, standing in front of one of the newly reconfigured trucks.
"That's why we call this 'SuperTruck,'" he said. "It's impressive, this one right here."
Obama also plans to ask Congress to create a $2-billion energy security trust fund to support research and development of more fuel-efficient vehicles. The president made a similar request last year but was rebuffed by Congress. Obama will also call on lawmakers to pass a new tax credit aimed at spurring investment in new-vehicle technology and to extend a tax credit for biofuel producers that expired in December.