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Obama Increases Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Data & Technology

President Barack Obama is moving ahead to increase fuel efficiency standards. While speaking at a Safeway distribution center in Maryland this week, President Obama cited the advantages of the fuel efficiency standards he put in place for both cars and light-duty vehicles, as well as heavy-duty vehicles.

Obama said that he is directing the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) to set the next phase of fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2016. In 2011, the Obama administration set the first new standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks which take effect this year and last until 2018.

The standards require combination tractors to achieve a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2018, and require heavy-duty pickup trucks, vans and vocational vehicles to achieve a 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption and GHG emissions by 2018.

Obama pointed out that although heavy-duty trucks only account for 4 percent of all the vehicles on the highway, they are responsible for about 20 percent of the carbon emissions from the transportation sector. They are also responsible for about 20 percent of on-road fuel consumption and haul about 70 percent of all domestic freight. The first phase of standards saves an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs and reduces American oil use by 530 million barrels of oil, or more oil than the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia in a year. They will also reduce carbon emissions by about 270 million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 56 million passenger vehicles from the road for a year, and improve air quality by reducing particulate matter and ozone, which will result in health benefits from about $1.3 billion to $4.2 billion in 2030.

“And that’s why, after taking office, my administration worked with automakers, autoworkers, environmental advocates and states across the country, and we set in motion the first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States,” Obama said. “And as our automakers retooled and prepared to start making the world’s best cars again, we aimed to raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon for a new vehicle by 2016.”

In 2009, the Obama administration set fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks for 2011 to 2016 models, requiring vehicles for those model years to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon.

The first phase of the standard amounts to an eight miles-per-gallon increase over what cars had averaged in the past, and has saved almost a billion gallons of fuel while avoiding more than 10 million tons of carbon emissions.

Three years later, Obama issued a second phase of fuel efficiency standards, requiring cars and light-duty trucks to achieve 54.5 mpg by 2025, which will double the distance “cars and light trucks can go on a gallon of gas by 2025,” Obama said. The second phase also saves consumers more than $1.7 trillion, or $8,000 for a typical family, and reduces U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. It will reduce GHG emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the vehicles.

Image credit: DiamondBack Truck

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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