News Column

Obama Orders Emissions Cut for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

February 19, 2014

By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

President Obama stepped around Congress once again on Tuesday and announced plans to develop a new round of regulations to reduce carbon emissions from heavy-duty trucks.

That announcement, which he made at a Maryland distribution center for the grocery chain Safeway, marked the sixth time in three weeks that Obama has used executive action to unilaterally create what he deems an economic opportunity for Americans.

With his latest order, Obama called for the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop and issue new fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 31, 2016.

"The goal we are setting is ambitious," Obama said. "But these are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far."

Although heavy-duty vehicles account for just 4% of registered vehicles on the road in the USA, they account for approximately 25% of road-fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions coming from the transportation sector.

From a previous round of bolstering fuel standards, which were finalized by the Obama administration in 2011, the White House projects the country will save about 530 million barrels of oil -- more than what is imported annually from Saudi Arabia -- and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 270 million metric tons. Obama also previously issued new standards to double fuel efficiency in light vehicles and trucks by 2025.

Obama's 2011 directive on heavy-duty vehicles affected new models from 2014 to 2018. The administration touts the first-round standards will save vehicle owners and operators $50 billion in fuel costs.

In the administration's past push for bolstering fuel efficiency standards, manufacturers had expressed some resistance to Washington dictating costly improvements. But as the administration has made reducing fuel consumption a top priority, the manufacturers have sought to shape the rules.

"Every time someone says you can't grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it turns out they've been wrong," Obama said.

The administration is offering tax credits to manufacturers of heavy-duty alternative fuel vehicles as well as to companies that are building infrastructure, so vehicles running on alternative fuels have places to fill up. The Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, an alliance of trucking companies, said "it is important to ensure flexibility and provide incentives" to their industry as well.

Obama also is calling for Congress to end some $4 billion in annual tax breaks to oil and gas companies and create a trust fund for research and development of advanced vehicle technologies.

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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