Drivers

President’s Plan Looks Beyond 2018 Heavy Truck Emissions Levels

June 25, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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In a speech Tuesday calling for tougher emissions for coal-fired power plants, President Obama also laid out what he wants when it comes to emissions from heavy trucks and the future of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Photo: Evan Lockridge
Photo: Evan Lockridge

Speaking at Georgetown University, he outlined a series of proposals he intends to push through with executive action, sidestepping Congress, to limit what he says are climate-changing carbon emissions.

“The President’s Climate Action Plan,” as it is called, calls for further increasing heavy truck fuel economy standards, which the administration says are “the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector.”

It plans to partner with industry leaders and other key stakeholders to develop post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks to further reduce fuel consumption, though it does not say how much of a cut the President is aiming for. It calls for using “cost-effective technologies.” The U.S. EPA is expected to issue draft rules in about a year.

In 2011, the Obama administration finalized the first-ever fuel economy standards for 2014-2018 model year heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. It says these standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil.

The fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards introduced earlier have been lauded by larger fleets, who say they will save money in the long run by cutting fuel costs. Critics claim the regulations will increase truck prices, outweighing any fuel savings.

The administration has already established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards require an average performance equivalent of 54.5 mpg by 2025, which the government says will save the average driver more than $8,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicle and eliminate 6 billion metric tons of carbon pollution, more than the United States emits in an entire year.

Also on Tuesday the president spoke about the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it should be approved but only if it would not “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas pollution.

The pipeline is designed to transport oil sands bitumen from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries. The company building it, TransCanada, needs a permit from the U.S. State Department because it crosses an international boundary.

Earlier the administration denied a permit for building the pipeline, but said TransCanada could apply again, which it has done. The State Department said in a March draft environmental review that the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline wouldn't significantly boost greenhouse gas emissions.

Proponents of Keystone XL say it would help reduce U.S. dependent on foreign oil. Those against it claim there is no guarantee fuel refined from the Canadian oil sands would remain in the U.S., along with expressing concerns about its environmental impact. 

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