New fuel economy standards order better mileage for heavy trucks

the front of a semi truck with the rest outside the frame

The president signed an executive order Friday for tougher national fuel economy standards that calls for better gas mileage beyond 2017 and regulates heavy trucks for the first time. Flickr photo.

Fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks got tougher in April. On Friday, those standards for cars and light trucks got even tougher and extended further into the future. Plus, better gas mileage for heavy trucks will also be enforced for the first time. President Obama ordered the government to step up fuel economy standards, and he had a group of auto and truck executives who support the regulation standing behind him. The president cited the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in his remarks about America’s long-term energy security and national fuel economy standards.

National fuel efficiency standards

The executive order on national fuel efficiency standards allows Obama to get the ball rolling without having to wait for Congress. Obama’s signature orders the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department to develop new fuel and emissions standards that are more strict than rules formally enacted in April. The April rules require that auto loans will buy new cars that average a minimum of 35.5 miles a gallon by 2016. The president’s new plan also orders more improvements on fuel efficiency in cars and light trucks made in 2017 and beyond and in medium and heavy trucks made from 2014 through 2018.

In addition, Mr. Obama’s directive orders more federal support for the development of new vehicles, such as advanced electric cars, and it instructs the EPA to reduce emissions of other  pollutants by motor vehicles, besides greenhouse gases.

Automakers want national fuel efficiency standards.

Automakers want national fuel efficiency standards. A state-by-state approach has threatened them ever since California started trying to enforce tougher fuel efficiency standards than the federal government. The New York Times reports that before the president’s initial policy a year ago, manufacturers were facing fuel-efficiency standards developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in response to Congressional legislation; separate greenhouse-gas standards being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act; and the possibility of separate standards enacted in California and 13 other states.

Better gas mileage for trucks

Environmental groups have wanted better gas mileage standards for medium- and heavy-duty work trucks for some time. The Associated Press reports that medium and heavy trucks represent only 4 percent of all vehicles on American highways, but they consume more than 20 percent of the fuel burned on the roads, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy organization. If trucks get 3.7 miles to the gallon more it would, by 2030, reduce American oil consumption by 11 billion gallons a year, the group said.

Better gas mileage saves billions

Better gas mileage standards will have a deep impact on carbon emissions as well as energy security. Reuters reports that environmental statistics show cars and trucks account for more than 60 percent of U.S. oil consumption and more than 25 percent of domestic carbon pollution, David Doniger, policy director for the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Reuters that better gas mileage for cars and the first-ever efficiency goals for trucks will save consumers billions of dollars in fuel costs.

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