President Bush will unveil his administration’s long-awaited national energy plan, designed to alleviate electric power shortages and fuel price spikes over the long term. While there are no specific trucking provisions in the 163-page plan, at least one of its initiatives could provide a shot in the arm to some current truck design experiments.
The bulk of the plan deals with ways to provide more energy supplies to the United States.
“My plan helps people in the short term and long term by recognizing the problem and by expediting energy development,” Bush said during a press conference yesterday. “It provides over a hundred proposals to diversify and increase the supply of energy; innovative proposals to encourage conservation and ways to make sure that we get energy from producer to consumer.”
The President’s proposals include speeding up the licensing and construction of power plants – nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired – along with oil refineries, to help increase the supply of gasoline and diesel fuel in the U.S.
Bush also proposes to increase domestic oil exploration and drilling, already one of the more controversial aspects of his plan. He wants to open eight percent of the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and parts of the Alaskan Petroleum Reserve to more oil exploration. The Reserve, created in 1923 to provide emergency petroleum supplies to the U.S. Navy, covers 23-million acres of land.
Under the Bush plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be given a green light to perform a 90-day study on whether to roll back pollution controls for power plants and refineries, in order to help maximize energy production capacity. The EPA will also review the use of reformulated gasoline and whether federal and state mandates to produce ‘cleaner’ gas are actually interfering with distribution.
Though Bush will stress both supply and conservation efforts in his plan, he continues to maintain that more supply-oriented efforts are critical to solving America’s energy problems in both the short and long term.
“We recognize that we need more supply,” Bush said. “And when you read the report, you'll see that we've laid out constructive ways to make sure that more supply [will be] available. Ours is a nation that can lead the world in innovative conservation measures. And we provide incentives to do that.”
Yet the plan also calls for $10-billion worth of tax credits aimed at a variety of issues, such as $2 billion to find ways to burn coal more cleanly.
But the lion’s share – $4-billion worth – is aimed at stimulating sales of hybrid vehicles, powered by both electric and gasoline engines. Toyota and Honda have both developed commercially available hybrid cars capable of achieving more than 50 mpg on the highway. DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors are working on hybrid versions of SUVs and light trucks.
Hybrid technology is also in play for Class 8 trucks, though Bush’s energy plan does not address them directly. Volvo Trucks North America uses a hybrid system in its 21st Century truck program – which stems from a joint project between Volvo, Lockheed Martin and Radian Inc. to build a diesel-electric hybrid Class 8 tractor for the U.S. Army.
This truck is propelled at low speeds by two 250-hp electric motors and at highway speeds by a 460-hp diesel engine. However, whether any of that $4-billion worth of tax credits gets funneled in the direction of the heavy-truck market remains to be seen.