Earlier this summer, the U.S. EPA and NHTSA jointly released their Phase 2 proposal to reduce fuel consumption and cut carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks and buses. This program is a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s strategy to address global warming and energy use in the transportation sector.
“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Administrator McCarthy is right: The new standards are expected to lower carbon dioxide emissions by about 1 billion metric tons, cut fuel costs by about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.
The new standards will also address the concern that our trucks cause too much pollution. Today’s trucks represent roughly 5% of the vehicles on the road, yet they are responsible for roughly 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions and oil used in the U.S. transportation sector.
“Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big vehicles. This rule will change that,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Who will be some of the big winners if the proposal is finalized as proposed?
The nation’s truck fleets will be the clearest winners. According to EPA, fleets that buy new combination tractor-trailer trucks in 2027 (when the rule is fully implemented) will recoup their investment in two years, and will save money in fuel costs for the lifetime of their vehicles.
Fleets will win in other ways too: with low-rolling resistance tires, higher-performance lubricants, and other components that will accompany the program’s implementation and that will save them money over the long run.
Engine, tractor, and trailer makers will also be winners. They will be selling components of the cleanest, most efficient trucks in the world to customers who increasingly care about fuel prices and acting in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Alternative fuel and advanced technology trucks will also be winners. Provisions to capture emissions from natural gas trucks and refueling systems will address environmental concerns about methane emissions, and advanced technology credits will help boost the market for electric, hybrid, and fuel cell trucks. These provisions can be enhanced to further accelerate the shift to these alternative fuels and advanced technologies in the niches where it makes sense to do so, such as sanitation and waste removal, urban delivery, transit, port drayage, and even long-haul trucking where the fueling infrastructure exists.
Last but certainly not least, the environment and our energy security will be winners. Cutting roughly 1 billion metric tons is comparable to eliminating all of the electricity and power use from all U.S. residences for an entire year. Saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil (i.e., 75 billion gals. of fuel) exceeds a year’s worth of U.S. oil imports.
The proposal is ambitious, yet achievable. In the short run, it will make our nation’s trucks cleaner and more efficient. In the longer run, its combination of fuel neutrality and advanced technology incentives will help us get one step closer to a zero emissions future.
Rich Kassel is senior vice president at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), the clean transportation and energy consulting firm that organizes the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. To learn more about the issues in this article, save the date for the 2016 ACT Expo set for May 2-5 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Learn more at www.gladstein.org and www.actexpo.com.