Obama to announce new heavy truck rules today

When President Obama announces the first U.S. CO2 emission rules for heavy trucks in Springfield, VA today, the American Trucking Association (ATA) expects a push to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20 percent by 2018, according to a post by Jeff Plungis on Bloomberg yesterday.

The story quotes Glen Kedzie, vice president of the ATA as saying, ““Over the last 20 to 25 years, we’ve been flat lining at 6 1/2 miles per gallon, and that’s not a good way to go,” Kedzie said. “This is going to really help the industry overall. Everyone will move ahead and move on. We’ll get used to it.”

He expects a stated goal of an annual 6 percent improvement in fuel efficiency as well. Kedzie is also the environmental counsel for an industry group based in Arlington, VA and was privy to EPA and NHTSA briefings on the new rules. The efficiency goals should help trucks get their mileage up to a dismal 7 or 7 1/2 miles per gallon by 2018.

The 18-wheelers we all depend on for a wide array of goods, and consequently services, average 100,000 miles every year, consuming roughly 15,000 gallons of petrol, according to a post by Luke Tonachel on theenergycollective.com. Given a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption, resulting from the new standards would create a savings of $10,700 at $3.50 per gallon in one year.

Similarly, a heavy pickup that gets about 14 miles to the gallon, racking up 13,000 miles annually, would gain a $325 fuel break from a mere 10 percent increase in efficiency.

The Heavy Duty National Program is aimed at semi-trailer trucks, city buses, garbage haulers, delivery vehicles and work trucks over 8,500 lbs. Twenty percent of all oil used for transportation is guzzled by these important and necessary vehicles. The downside is they are responsible for 20 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from transportation, yet make up only 4 percent of the vehicles on the roads.

It's about time these obese energy vampires were put on a diet and a regimen of Beano tablets.

Yet, how can anyone predict the price of diesel fuel over the next year even though gas prices have been dropping? Given the volatility of the global market and lessening value of the U.S. dollar, how can anyone say with certainty what a gallon of diesel will cost one year from today?

Still the rules for heavy trucks really focus on carbon dioxide emissions more than fuel consumption, unlike the new regulations for cars and light trucks. The rules announced later today will only require the use of existing technology, rather than the innovation and development of alternative systems.

“It’s a first round of standards,” said Don Anair, senior vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley, CA. “There’s a lot of opportunity left to make bigger gains later.”

All in all, as important as the transport of goods is to our economy, and what fulfilling these goals means to jobs and progress, the CAFE requirements may end up being the shot in the arm the American economy needs.

If it costs less to ship goods and deliver them to market, retail prices will be lower. As fuel efficiency increases it will make our cars more competitive in the global market, a place where we’re behind the rest of the world.

If nothing else the new standards should go a long way to realizing their intended goals – a significant reduction in our need for foreign oil and lessening the heat-trapping greenhouse gasses that seem to be roasting the country this summer.

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