President Obama announced plans to set fuel economy standards for passenger and light-duty vehicles for 2014 and beyond, and the first ever fuel standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks on May 21. The new rules, once finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), would raise fuel economy standards for passenger and light-duty vehicles to 35.5 miles per gallon. Last month, the federal government finalized fuel economy standards through 2014 for passenger and light-duty vehicles.
“We know that climate change poses a threat to our way of life -– in fact we’re already seeing some of the profound and costly impacts,” Obama said in a speech. “And the disaster in the Gulf only underscores that even as we pursue domestic production to reduce our reliance on imported oil, our long-term security depends on the development of alternative sources of fuel and new transportation technologies.”
“The federal government was responsive to our calls for a long-range national program,” Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said. “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.”
Large trucks represent about four percent of all vehicles on U.S. highways but use over 20 percent more fuel. Commercial trucks represent 21 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, according to the EPA.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) calculates that the proposed standards would reduce U.S. oil consumption by about 1.3 million barrels per day by 2020, almost as much as is currently imported from Saudi Arabia. The new standards would also, according to UCS calculations, reduce GHG emissions by 217 million metric tons in 2020, equivalent to removing almost 32 million of today’s cars and light trucks off the road.