Obama laying out climate-change plan yesterday (Photo: whitehouse.gov)
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UPDATED (4:20 pm EDT): Obama to further cut heavy-truck emissions

June 26, 2013
But President’s plan does not state what new, post-2018 limits will be

WASHINGTON, DC. President Obama will take executive action to further reduce the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions produced by heavy trucks--  beyond the limits already set to come into effect by model year 2018.

Noting that his Administration had already set "the first-ever [GHG emissions] standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans,” it would “in the coming months… partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.”

Those GHG limits covered 2014-2018 model year heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. According to the Obama Administration, these existing rules will cut GHG emissions by some 270- million metric tons and reduce oil consumption by 530- million barrels.

The Presidents’ remark about further cutting heavy-truck emissions came yesterday during a wide-ranging address he made at Georgetown University. There, Obama laid out an ambitious climate-change policy agenda for the remainder of his second term. The speech also included a call for tightening emissions standards for coal-fired power plants and hints about the future of the highly controversial the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

According to the President’s Climate Change Action Plan—which will be driven by executive actions not requiring Congressional approval— the Administration will once again “in partnership with industry leaders and other key stakeholders” develop “post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to further reduce fuel consumption through the application of advanced cost-effective technologies.”

The action plan says only that— it offers no details on how much of a further improvement in MPG will need to be wrung from heavy-duty vehicles.

However, some details emerged this morning when two government panelists here at the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo replied to questions about the heavy-duty standards in the action plan.

EPA’s Christopher Grundler, Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said that the policy was in its “very early days” but “[EPA] have begun some technical work in this area, but scope and schedule all to be determined.”

Grundler reminded the audience that the Administration had conferred with manufacturers for the first round (2014-18 model year) of heavy-duty GHG/MLP standards. He said that areas now under consideration “span the gamut from better engines to better transmissions to better aerodynamic designs to fuel-based strategies… All that is on the table for consideration as we begin this collaborative process.

“[We] Intend to follow same successful way we did this last time,” he continued, “which is to engage the interested stakeholders early to keep them involved throughout the process and to listen to their concerns as well as the opportunities  they see for developing cost effective proposals.”

Asked about whether measurement standards would change in future, Grundler responded that “I don't expect the metric to change from the ton-mile basis.”

He pointed out as well that there is work still to be done on trailers under the first round of standards.  “We did make a commitment as part of the first round to look at trailers and we will,” he stated. However, he did not elaborate as to whether such trailer- related standards would come before the 2018 timeframe set for the new, second round of GHG/MPG rules.

Grundler also advised that the next round of heavy-duty standards would “take advantage” of work done for the Dept.of Energy’ s Super Truck research project.

Also on the panel was Daniel Utech, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. While Utech said he couldn't speak to the future standards specifically, he allowed that the "Administration remains committed to funding R&D in this space... We're committed here."

Reaction to the President’s heavy-truck initiative from the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) was extremely positive. “We were enthusiastic supporters of the most recent round of standards for heavy-duty vehicles and we look forward to working with the Administration with the goal of setting economically achievable economy standards based on sound scientific research,” ATA spokesperson Sean McNally told FleetOwner.

Also upbeat was Navistar, manufacturer of International Trucks and MaxxForce engines. “Fuel efficiency is a priority for Navistar and our customers and we continue to be actively engaged in providing solutions for improved fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” manager of external communications Elissa Koc Maurer told FleetOwner. “We look forward to working with the Environmental Protection Agency on this next phase.”

Sean Waters, director of compliance & regulatory affairs for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), manufacturer of Freightliner and Western Star Trucks as well as Detroit engines and transmissions, told FleetOwner the OEM “applauds efforts to reduce carbon emissions as evidenced by our leadership and looks forward to improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions without sacrificing future vehicle performance.

“In February 2012, EPA certified DTNA’s complete portfolio of model year 2013 on-highway, vocational and medium-duty vehicles as fully compliant with the new GHG14 regulations,” he continued. “DTNA’s commitment to green technologies is part of parent company Daimler AG’s global ‘Shaping Future Transportation’ initiative.” Waters said that initiative, launched in 2007, is “focused on reducing criteria pollutants, carbon dioxide and fuel consumption through the utilization of clean, efficient drive systems and alternative fuels.”

“DTNA is focused on providing our customers with sustainable options that exceed performance expectations at every turn,” added David Hames, DTNA’s gm of marketing and strategy.

Also enthusiastic was truck, engine and transmission maker Volvo, especially about the new GHG rules being developed in a collaborative public-private manner, as happened with the first set.

“Environmental care has long been a Volvo core value, so we support the Administration’s ongoing focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Susan Alt, senior vp of public affairs for Volvo Group told FleetOwner. “We appreciate that the Administration is again taking a collaborative approach and seeking the industry’s input for this latest round of heavy-duty vehicle standards. We look forward to working together to develop environmentally beneficial standards that also take into consideration the associated economic and operational challenges.

“Volvo was the first heavy-duty manufacturer to meet EPA ’10 emissions regulations and our full product lineup was awarded certificates of conformance by EPA and NHTSA under the first-ever greenhouse-gas regulations for heavy trucks,” Alt added.

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