"America has the opportunity to lead the world in the development of a new generation of clean cars and trucks through innovative technologies and manufacturing that will spur economic growth and create high-quality domestic jobs, enhance our energy security, and improve our environment," the President says in the memorandum.
At the White House signing ceremony, Obama said, "This is going to bring down the costs for transportating goods, serving businesses and consumers alike. It will reduce pollution, given that freight vehicles produce roughly one fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation."
President Barack Obama signs the Memorandum authorizing the first greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks flanked by, from left, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, truck and auto industry executives. (Photo courtesy The White House)
"I believe that it's possible, in the next 20 years, for vehicles to use half the fuel and produce half the pollution that they do today," Obama said. "But that's only going to happen if we are willing to do what's necessary for the sake of our economy, our security, and our environment."
"We estimate," said Obama, "that we can increase fuel economy by as much as 25 percent in tractor trailers using technologies that already exist today. And, just like the rule concerning cars, this standard will spur growth in the clean energy sector."
In addition to the medium and heavy truck emissions rule that will cover model years 2014 through 2018, President Obama also directed an extension of the national fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction program for cars and light-duty trucks from model year 2017 through 2025.
"The standard we set last year for cars and light trucks runs through 2016," said Obama. "I'm proposing we start developing right now a new and higher standard to take effect beginning 2017, so that we can make more and more progress in the years to come."
The new policy builds on the joint rulemaking issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency on April 1, 2010, which regulates emissions from passenger cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2012-2016.
Now, Obama is directing the same agencies to create the first national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium weight and heavy-duty trucks.
With an aim to have a final rule in place by July 30, 2011, the President directed that federal officials work with the State of California to develop by September 1, 2010, a technical assessment to inform the rulemaking process. California already has a low carbon vehicles law on the books.
Big rigs lined up at an Oklahoma truck stop (Photo by Max Duggan)
Currently trucks consume more than two million barrels of oil a day, and average just 6.1 miles per gallon. They emit 20 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution related to transportation.
Preliminary estimates indicate great potential for significant fuel efficiency gains and greenhouse gas emissions reductions for large tractor trailers, which represent half of all greenhouse gas emissions from this sector.
The new policy has the support of the trucking industry and automobile manufacturers.
"The federal government is looking 15 years down the road and uniting all the diverse stakeholders to work towards the same national goal," said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers."
"The federal government was responsive to our calls for a long-range national program. Auto technologies require long lead-times for research and development, typically 5-10 years and more. Energy providers need time to expand availability of low-carbon fuels and their infrastructure. And introducing new technologies and fuels to consumers takes time to get up to speed. So we need to start now," said McCurdy. "By starting this process, we are clearing a single path to 2025."
Leaders of the American Trucking Associations, ATA, met with President Obama in the White House this morning before the signing ceremony and stood behind the President as he signed the memorandum.
ATA Chairman Tommy Hodges said the President's announcement endorses the ATA Sustainability Task Force recommendation in 2008 that called for national fuel economy standards for trucks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Heavy-duty trucks drive through a storm in Texas. (Photo by TeamExpress)
"President Obama told us this morning that this could be a model of industry and government cooperation in developing beneficial regulations," Hodges said. "We set out in 2007 to have the trucking industry become leaders on this issue when the EPA would begin to regulate truck fuel economy. Today we reached one of our goals. ATA's members and staff have given the industry an opportunity to have significant input on this issue."
Also standing with the President were representatives of ATA member companies: Daimler Trucks North America President and CEO Martin Daum; Waste Management Inc. Driver Anthony Dunkley; Volvo North American Trucks President and CEO Dennis Slagle; Cummins Inc. President and CEO Tim Solso; and Navistar International Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Daniel Ustian.
Hodges also met this morning with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "She acknowledged that the trucking industry has made huge advances in reducing the emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides from trucks," Hodges said. "Unfortunately, some advances have come at the cost of a reduction in fuel economy and a slight increase in carbon dioxide output. Now we have the opportunity to fix that and substantially increase our fuel economy."
Jackson told reporters today that the EPA will be "flexible to work with the trucking industry" as the agency writes the rule requested by the President. "We're starting on this today to build a clean energy future tomorrow," she said.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "I believe we are laying the foundation for a cleaner, greener transportation sector to enhance America's competitiveness."
Obama said his administration's $787 billion economic stimulus legislation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, emphasizes clean energy by supporting development of advanced battery technologies, the advanced infrastructure required for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles and by doubling the capacity to generate renewable electricity.
"We're building a stronger, smarter electric grid, which will be essential to powering the millions of plug-in hybrids - cars and trucks that we hope to see on the roads." In addition to creating jobs, he said, "these investments will help businesses develop new technologies that vehicle makers can use to meet higher fuel efficiency standards."
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm told reporters on a teleconference today that her state is poised to become the "world capital of electric vehicles." She said domestic production of electric vehicles and the whole battery sector will create thousands of jobs in Michigan.
"We are particularly pleased that it will be one national standard and not a patchwork of state by state regulations. That sends the right market signals," Granholm said.
Environmentalists were pleased with the President's directive. David Doniger, policy director for the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, "These are big steps to curb America's dependence on oil and cut our contribution to global warming. The cars and trucks on the nation's roads and highways account for more than 60 percent of the oil we use and more than 25 percent of our carbon pollution. These steps are especially welcome in the wake of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico."
Doniger said, "The second round of standards for cleaner cars, and the first-ever standards for heavy trucks, will save consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump, the grocery shelves, and the shopping center."
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