The White House last week announced the first ever fuel efficiency standards for trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles. If the rule is adopted, vehicles manufactured between 2014 and 2018 will be required to reduce their fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 10 to 20 percent, depending on their type. The administration projects that oil consumption will be reduced by about 530 million barrels, and greenhouse gas pollution will be reduced by approximately 270 million metric tons.
The beauty of the heavy truck proposal is that it was largely supported by the trucking industry. President Obama thanked some of those representatives at a private ceremony at the White House. The American Trucking Association gave it the thumbs up, saying it moves the industry in the right direction. Smaller trucking companies were a little more dubious because they felt the government was moving too fast.
The big truck standard came on the heels of a broader announcement from the White House to ramp up vehicle fuel-economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for regular cars. Under that deal, the administration negotiated with the automakers, unions, environmental groups, and the state of California to settle on an acceptable standard. Some critics argue that the new fuel standard will compromise other parts of the vehicle and make cars more expensive. Obama included a possible escape clause for automakers: A 2018 review of the car standards that could let automakers argue for reducing the miles-per-gallon targets if the most fuel-efficient cars aren't selling.
Has Obama hit on a winning formula with the new fuel standards by making sure industry buys in before he announces them? Are the standards robust enough to achieve the twin goals of reducing oil dependency and creating jobs in high-tech green industries? Is industry really on board or is it just for show? What impact do the fuel standards have on transportation infrastructure? Will the heavy truck standard change how roads and bridges must be maintained?