Obama Sets Deadline for Big-Truck Climate Rule

<p>President Obama wants to complete climate rules for trucks well before he leaves office.</p> (National Journal)

President Obama is directing federal agencies to complete the next round of carbon-emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for large and medium-sized trucks by March 2016, the White House said Tuesday.

Obama announced the deadline at a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., where he cast the plan as a way to help consumers and the climate while boosting U.S. energy security.

"Improving gas mileage for these trucks are going to drive down our oil imports even further. That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses' fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers," Obama said. "It's not just a win-win, it's a win-win-win."

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are crafting their second round of efficiency and emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as big rigs, buses, large pickups, garbage trucks, and delivery vans.

The first round of standards, completed in 2011, cover model years 2014-2018, while the new rules will "reach well into the next decade," the White House said.

Commercial trucking fleets and other large, workhorse vehicles represent a big opportunity to reduce heat-trapping carbon-dioxide emissions and curb oil use, officials say.

According to the White House, in 2010 heavy-duty vehicles accounted for about a quarter of the "on-road" fuel demand and emissions from transportation, even though they're only 4 percent of the vehicles on the road.

The standards covering model years 2014-18 are estimated to cut fuel costs by $50 billion and save 530 million barrels of oil over the life of the vehicles, according to the White House.

The next round of truck standards are part of the second-term climate plan the president unveiled last June. The deadline announced Tuesday underscores White House efforts to have executive actions on climate completed well before Obama leaves office.

EPA is facing a separate deadline in June of this year to unveil draft carbon-emissions rules for the nation's existing power plants, and must complete them a year later.

Tuesday's event marks the second time in recent days that Obama has personally promoted pieces of his climate-change agenda.

On Friday, in California, he touted a proposal to create a $1 billion "Climate Resilience Fund" to help communities and farmers prepare for extreme weather that's expected to be worsened by global warming. But that proposal faces huge political hurdles on Capitol Hill.

EPA and the Transportation Department are crafting the truck regulations under their existing authorities.

The two agencies have previously teamed up to complete two rounds of mileage and emissions rules for passenger cars and light trucks — the first covers model years 2011-2016 and the second covers 2017-2025. Those rules will require automakers to meet a fleet-wide average for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles-per-gallon in 2025.

Obama on Tuesday touted administration fuel-economy efforts in noting that rising U.S. oil-production levels recently began surpassing the nation's falling oil-import levels for the first time in 20 years, while carbon emissions also have fallen in recent years.

"One of the reasons why is because we dedicated ourselves to manufacturing new cars and new trucks that go farther on a gallon of gas, and that saves families money, it cuts down on harmful pollution, and creates new advances in American technology," Obama said.