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Fuel Efficiency Standards

Image Credit: White House Photo, Samantha AppletonDon Hillebrand, Director for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory, joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm to discuss the new fuel efficiency standards President Barack Obama has announced over the past two weeks.

On August 9, President Obama introduced the first fuel efficiency standards for commercial vehicles. The new standards should save American companies roughly $50 billion in fuel costs, while also helping commercial trucks, buses, and other medium- to heavy-duty vehicles meet fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards by the year 2014, a feat which has never been achieved.

Under the new plan, vehicles are divided into the following categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (e.g. transit buses and refuse trucks.) Specific targets are outlined within each category for different vehicles depending on their design and purpose. The hope is that this structure will be flexible enough to accommodate changes while nevertheless insisting on improvements every year for every vehicle.

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The announcement comes on the heels of the President’s July 29th declaration of new fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks. The administration’s new standards will be in place for Model Years 2017-2025, and follow previous standards the administration put in place for 2011-2016. Taken together, by 2025 the fleet average will be 54.5 mpg, while greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to 163 grams per mile.

“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” said President Obama.  “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy and drive these trucks.  And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks.”

The President developed the commercial vehicle fuel efficiency standards in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency, and several private companies. Truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the State of California, environmental groups and others also contributed to the new national program, which relies largely on off-the-shelf technologies.

The standards require trucks built from 2014-2018 to reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by roughly 270 million metric tons. By reducing the emissions of air pollutants, the standards will decrease toxins that can cause asthma, heart attacks, and premature death.

In addition to the environmental benefits, these standards will result in long-term savings. For instance, a semi-truck operator could have a net savings of $73,000, in terms of reduced fuel costs over the rest of the truck’s life after paying for technology upgrades. Consumers and businesses will benefit economically from the reduced costs for transporting goods. The standards will also help stimulate the clean energy sector by encouraging innovative clean energy technology and helping ensure regulatory certainty for manufacturers.

To learn more, check out the graphics and links below.

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