President Barack Obama on Tuesday directed federal agencies to develop higher fuel standards for medium-sized and heavy trucks, another step in his efforts to slash oil consumption and carbon emissions blamed for global warming.
Obama made the announcement in Upper Marlboro, Md., about 20 miles from Washington, at a distribution center for Safeway grocery stores, next to a trucking rig that had been redesigned to increase fuel economy.
"Everybody who says you can't grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it's turned out they've been wrong," Obama said.
Automakers are already working to nearly double the average fuel economy of new U.S. cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, under rules that took effect in 2012.
The administration will now direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop new rules for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency by March 2016, with a draft due a year before that.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx were on hand for Obama's announcement.
The new rules will build on standards already in place for model years 2014-18 for those larger vehicles, including semi-trailers and "big rigs" as well as so-called vocational vehicles, which include delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans.
The White House estimates that the first phase of fuel efficiency standards for trucks will save a projected 530 million barrels of oil.
The second phase "will take us well into the next decade," Obama said. "The goal we're setting is ambitious, but these are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far. Don't make small plans, make big plans."
In 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented just 4 percent of registered vehicles on the road in the United States, but they accounted for approximately 25 percent of on-road fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
News of the new fuel standards was welcomed by some of the biggest operators of truck fleets in the United States, who have formed an informal alliance, the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group.
The new standards "will be an important milestone that should result in significant benefits to our economy, the trucking industry and the environment," said Douglas Stotlar, president and chief executive officer of Con-way, the nation's third-largest freight company.
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