Obama proposal on truck efficiency would cut oil use (and CO2 emissions) beyond the 1.8 billion barrels (and nearly one billion tons) of his car standards

President: “I intend to work with members of both parties to pass a [climate] bill this year.”

Today Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the EPA and Department of Transportation to reduce U.S. oil use and greenhouse gas pollution by developing more efficient fuel economy standards.

The President directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to create a first-ever National Policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for Model Years 2014-2018.  Currently trucks consume more than two million barrels of oil every day, and average 6.1 miles per gallon. They also emit 20% of greenhouse gas pollution related to transportation.

The President also called for an extension of the National Program for cars and light-duty trucks to Model Year 2017 and beyond.

Additionally, President Obama directed the Department of Energy to provide increased support for deployment of advanced vehicles, including electric vehicles, and directed EPA to reduce non-greenhouse-gas pollutants from motor vehicles.

These first-ever greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for medium and heavy trucks are essential since these vehicles burn one in 10 barrels of oil used in the U.S.

These new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards are even more important in the wake of the BP oil disaster.  It is but one symptom of our oil dependence. Our national security is also at risk since one out of every five barrels of oil consumed in the U.S. comes from countries that are ‘dangerous or unstable’ according to the State Department.

Sating our hunger for oil will require many reforms. They include President Obama’s proposals today for even more fuel efficient cars, and the first improvements in fuel economy for trucks. In addition, we need incentives for the purchase of natural gas powered trucks and buses that could save more than 1 million barrels of oil daily. Investments in public transportation would yield additional savings.

Importantly, President Obama also reiterated his support for action comprehensive clean energy and global warming reductions this year.  He said:

Today’s announcement is an essential part of our energy strategy.  But it’s not a substitute for other necessary steps to ensure our leadership in a new clean energy economy.  I’m heartened by the good work that’s been done by Senator Kerry and Lieberman on a comprehensive energy and climate bill to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to prevent the worst consequences of climate change, and foster the millions of new jobs that are possible if we rise to this challenge.  And this follows the passage of comprehensive legislation through the House last June.

So as I’ve said before, I intend to work with members of both parties to pass a bill this year.

As President Obama noted, the Senate must play its part by passing additional oil independence measures such as those in the American Power Act. A Senate bill combined with President Obama’s new proposal can convert oil reductions from gallons of oil to barrels of oil.

JR:  Obama also discussed the benefits of his recently finalized auto efficiency rules:

“The typical driver will save roughly $3,000 over the life of the vehicle, we’ll reduce our dependence on oil by 1.8 billion barrels, and cut nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  This is the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road — lowering pollution while making our economy more secure.”

Today’s guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress.

This post has been updated.

27 Responses to Obama proposal on truck efficiency would cut oil use (and CO2 emissions) beyond the 1.8 billion barrels (and nearly one billion tons) of his car standards

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    Prez. Obama is turning out to be a master manufacturer of relatively nutritious if not absolutely tasty public policy sausage. Maybe not good enough for the demanding, picky connoisseur of the very best kind of breakfast links, but good enough to eat and possibly to live on. So let’s not be too surprised to see a volley of complaints from within the bowels of the abattoir and attached sausage factory known as Washington, D.C. and then the emergence of yet another package of legislation, passed.

  2. Mark Shapiro says:

    While we were all wondering how depressed to get about Arctic sea ice, our beleaguered President was taking a big step forward. An imperfect, flawed, compromised, ugly step — but forward.

    He gets it.

    Now let’s get behind him and push.

  3. prokaryote says:

    Both parties should act in consensus, based on the best science we have.
    Energy companys should acknowledge that they need to update their buisnesses model. There is no future for fossil energy, like it or not.
    Investment into clean technologies – the new economy will create success in all regards.

    And i second that one remark from Obama: Rightnow!

  4. Lore says:

    I believe Chris Matthews has coined it correctly, President Obama, when it comes to environmentalism, acts more like a Vatican observer.

  5. Andy says:

    Boy it’s nice to hear some good news coming out of Obama. This isn’t the all out campaign for APA that’s needed, but hopefully a step in that direction. Hopefully Obama is serious about seeing that bill passed *this year*.

    I wonder. Does anyone have any thoughts as to whether or not it is coincidence that this announcement comes right on the heals of images showing BP tar washing up en-masse on Louisiana shores?

  6. Leif says:

    The Tin Hats keep requesting 100% conformation that Green House gases are a problem. The question we need to ask is for them to give us even a 10% conformation the the status quo is not a problem. On every front, financially, national security, environmentally, public health, education, you name it, the Fossil Fuel industry is bringing our nation, (and the world), to its knees.

  7. Doug Bostrom says:

    Chris Matthews is on record as having a fixation with presidential codpieces even as he’s confronted with the ineptitude and incompetence of the man strapped into the article; I take Matthews’ opinions as a flag planted where “wrong” is found.

  8. Felix Kramer says:

    Very appropriate and necessary. But I keep hoping that analysts, decisionmakers, and entrepreneurs will start to get an inkling that it’s not just about 2017 and after, and that vehicles, like homes, offices and factories, are a part of the “built environment” that we can “fix.”

    We have 100 million large gas-guzzlers on the roads today; they’ll stick around for a few decades; and we can do better than wait for new more efficient vehicles or spent over $50,000 to convert them to natural gas (still a fossil fuel with significant greenhouse gas emissions). These vehicles have room for batteries and can be turned into all-electric or plug-in hybrids, depending on their design and drive cycles.

    Two years from now, when companies are making money doing this, it will be obvious. If only we didn’t have to lose two more critical years! Once we (and Canada) start offfering incentives to converters for safe, driveable, validated conversions, at levels equivalent to those we’re giving new plug-ins, i.e. $7,500, startups will be able to make the business case and get moving!

    — Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative — see the rationale and some companies at

  9. Not A Lawyer says:

    The headline’s incorrect. The 1.8 billion gallons and almost billion tons refers to the standards that were just enacted.

    From EPA’s April 1 press release: “The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered.”

    [JR: Fixed. Thanks.]

  10. Doug: delightful.

    Indeed,”Maybe not good enough for the demanding, picky connoisseur of the very best kind of breakfast links, but good enough to eat and possibly to live on.”

    I actually am not really clear on which things CAN be achieved by Executive Order, and which can’t.

    Why couldn’t a “pollution fee on carbon” be placed by an Executive Order? Perhaps $40 per ton…

  11. MarkB says:

    I think folks tend to underestimate Obama, and not just his detractors. He got flack for not being aggressive enough in getting his hands dirty on the details on healthcare reform (oddly enough an opposite conclusion reached regarding the Clintons in 1994). Then Scott Brown gets elected, Congress is in disarray, and the media declares healthcare reform dead, while Intrade contracts for passage bottom out. Yet Obama was a critical reason why it all came together in the end.

    Obama’s style is certainly more low-key – professorial to a fault perhaps. He’s not constantly yelling loudly from the pulpit, although he does so on occasion when the moment warrants it. This style shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness, as it was during the 2008 campaign.

    For these reasons, I think we shouldn’t underestimate Obama’s ability to play the key leadership role in passage of climate legislation, although the odds seem very low.

  12. prokaryote says:

    On January 1, 1991, Sweden enacted a CO2 tax, placing a tax of 0.25 SEK/kg ($100 or EUR 27 per ton) on the use of oil, coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and aviation fuel used in domestic travel.

    In 1997 the rate was raised to 0.365 SEK/kg ($150 per ton) of CO2 released [..] The tax is credited with spurring a significant move from fossil fuels to biomass. As Swedish Society for Nature Conservation climate change expert Emma Lindberg said, “It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions. It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions.”

    Economic growth appears to be unaffected. Between 1990 and 2006, Sweden’s economy grew by 44 percent

    The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010

    Switzerland tops the overall ranking in The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010. The United States falls one place to second position, with weakening in its financial markets and macroeconomic stability. Singapore, Sweden and Denmark round out the top five.

  13. Mark says:

    #8 – @Felix – I for one would love to convert my ICE vehicle to an EV. Thank you for letting us know about that possibility.

    I’m very happy with everything about my current ride, except the CO2 emissions.

    The idea of selling my current car to buy a LEAF (or other EV) just doesn’t seem like it is going to make that much of a difference from a CO2 footprint. After all, someone else will be driving my current car.

  14. mike roddy says:

    Mark B,

    I hope your more optimistic interpretation of Obama’s governing style turns out to be correct. He did surprise us with health care, but that was partly through stealth.

    Serious action on fossil fuels and CO2 may require a pivot to a more aggressive style. It won’t matter to the fossil fuel people either way, since they are beasts. If anything, a vigorous opponent may earn their respect.

  15. fj2 says:

    Regarding The President’s statements “for Model years 2014-2018”

    and, “will save roughly $3,000 over the life of the vehicle”

    Is somewhat in the future and does not do very much if anything here and now . . .

    The Wall Street Journal a year ago had an editorial on how going car-free saves an individual over $6,000 per year and the AAA declared that its members spent on average $7,800 per year on their cars.

    The May 2010 “The Atlantic” contains an article describing the exurbs going bust with the materials in homes in these areas now costing more than they are worth with these areas going derelict because of the high cost of transportation.

    The President has inherited much on his plate from the beginning and he has indicated he will move forward to advance action on the environmental crisis which will probably be the case.

    And, he will have to see the way clear on how to advance at an unprecedented rate on an unprecedented scale.

    There is no other alternative.

  16. malcreado says:

    >Why couldn’t a “pollution fee on carbon” be placed by an Executive Order? Perhaps $40 per ton…

    Because the next person in the executive office can overturn it with the stroke of a pen. An actual law will have a lot more staying power than an executive order.

  17. Karen S. says:

    One look at this MMS graphic of the 4000 rigs in the northern Gulf of Mexico and it’s obvious we have a long, long way to go. Transportation economy is only part of the answer. Joe-maybe it’s time to republish your list of “carbon wedge” reduction steps?

  18. Chris Dudley says:

    This is something that is pretty much required by the Supreme Court. The EPA has to regulate carbon dioxide. It started with point sources, it is moving on to transportation. The nice words about this being a piece of it are politic but Congress already passed the Clean Air Act and this is all that is needed to cut emissions. While Joe may be right that legislation is needed to get a treaty, gutting the Clean Air Act is not the right legislation. The two elements needed to get a treaty are emissions targets for 2020 and 2050 and consequences for a failure to get a treaty such as the carbon tariff language in Waxman-Markey. Perhaps is would be best to pass those separately fisrt and then tinker with mechanisms after the EPA has done its rule making. Getting regional equity might be an excellent role for Congress once the EPA has finished its work.

    In the meanwhile, if the President wants to act on his own and not just comply with a court order, implementing our standby gasoline rationing plan would be a very good move to both cut emissions outside EPA authority and deal with our current oil supply problem since CAFE standards take a while to work.

  19. Roger says:

    Very nice to hear Obama speaking out about climate and energy, as he does here. This is why we climate-concerned folks worked to get him elected. Kudos on the deployment of the Presidential Memorandum!

    We need much more of this in the coming months, with increasing frequency and force, and in a way that will get the message to climate-clueless constituents who aren’t yet paying attention to the consequences.

    A “State of the Climate” address on national, primetime TV would be appropriate, given the gravity of the situation, and the unity of response that is called for if we are to avoid hell and high water.

  20. paulm says:

    The real nub of the matter. Can we grow up in time to save the world from us…

    Economist are the new Environmentalist

  21. fj2 says:

    #17. Karen S., “Transportation economy is only part of the answer.”

    “Transportation economy” is a great way to characterize civilization with human mobility primal determining its advance.

  22. Bob Wallace says:

    Mike #14.

    Obama came to office during the second worst economic catastrophe in our country’s history. Had things been allowed to go unchecked it could have turned out to be even worse than the Great Depression as it could have taken most of the rest of the world down along with the US.

    He got busy, got a stimulus program up and going. A stimulus program which not only kick started our economy but also did a lot of good stimulating green jobs and renewable energy buildouts.

    He next worked on health care problems. We suffer around 40,000 unnecessary deaths each year because over 30 million Americans cannot afford health insurance. He got a good bill passed, something that other presidents had been unable to do for 100 years.

    He is very close to signing the most wide-reaching piece of financial reform since the pre-WW II years.

    These are three very, very big achievements and accomplished in only the first year and a half of his first term. His rate of achievement puts him in the rarefied company of only FDR and LBJ.

    You seem to be dissatisfied with his style. But has it occurred to you that whatever Obama’s style, he gets the job done?

    Do you want to take the risk of future failure that might come via abandoning the style which has brought incredible success and adopting a “jump and down while screaming loudly” approach?

  23. Bob Wallace says:

    From a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and CALSTART report on improving truck fuel efficiency…

    “Investing in fuel efficiency technologies for heavy-duty trucks would create jobs in the manufacturing sector and throughout the entire economy because fuel savings outweigh the cost of more efficient trucks. Our report demonstrates that improving the gas mileage of these vehicles not only would provide opportunity for economic growth and job creation, but would strengthen our energy security and reduce global warming emissions as well.

    Net job increases nationwide: 63,000 additional jobs in 2020 and 124,000 in 2030. All states would experience net job growth. California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan lead the way with more than 4,000 additional jobs apiece by 2030.

    An increase in US annual gross domestic product of $4 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2030.

    Savings of more than $120,000 per truck for fleets operating new advanced-technology heavy-duty tractor-trailers over eight years, after recovering the initial $62,000 investment.

    Per-truck savings of more than $80,000 over 10 years (used truck) and 15 years (new truck) for owners of advanced-technology heavy-duty tractors without trailers.”

  24. Chris Winter says:

    I wonder how much potential there is for saving fuel in the diesel engines that drive those giant trucks like the ones used at open-pit coal mines, and the draglines & etc. I’ll bet it’s immense.

  25. Bob Wallace says:

    The most immense fuel savings would come from conserving electricity and building enough renewable capacity to allow us to shut down coal.

    But, to the extent that we will keep mining for a few more years, I’d bet that hybrid electric/diesel rigs would use a lot less power and create a lot less pollution.

    Hybrids come into their own in stop and go conditions and that is exactly what happens in activities such as mining. And electric motors would provide immense torque and not require overpowering the diesels which is a real pollution producing event. The diesel engines could be optimized to run at a constant RPM level which should suit them very nicely. And they could be made smaller/lighter.

  26. Leif says:

    Bob Wallace: How about a Locomotive diesel electric tractor that could pull a “train” of mine trucks up the hill while the mine trucks were optimized for flat ground and moving to the “train” staging area? Individually the trucks could return down the hill and charge batteries in the process.

  27. Dan B says:

    2014 is a heartbeat away in corporate terms, especially since there must be “product” coming off the line by then and rapid increases for the next four years.

    By then we should have experienced some dramatic, and frighteningly obvious, changes in polar regions. Perhaps forest fires, ice sheet collapses, and widespread deadly weather will be nipping at the heels of even the most retrograde elected officials, CEO’s, and captains of the MSM. (Except Murdock – probably even more fossil (fuel)ized.)

    If we have multiple nationwide programs in place the extra urgency should provide political, economic, and moral pressure to accelerate the transition to a 21st Century Sustainable economy.