Strong Fuel Efficiency and Clean Air Standards Welcome in Texas

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will cut both costs and pollution.

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will save money and cut pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and that should be welcome news for all of Texas.

Applying to everything from delivery vans to waste and recycling trucks to utility trucks and all the way up to tractor-trailers, these rules could drive efficiency improvements that save money for both businesses and consumers, all while cutting harmful air pollution. According to EPA and NHTSA estimates, the rules would cut climate emissions by one billion metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. And a study by Environmental Defense Fund and CERES found strong fuel-efficiency standards for trucks could lower total per-mile cost of truck ownership by 21 cents-per-mile by 2025.

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Those are some big numbers, and they probably have something to do with the fact that there is broad support for such rules. According to a recent survey by the Consumer Federation of America a large majority of Americans – 71 percentfavor requiring truck manufacturers to increase the fuel economy of large trucks to reduce their fuel costs, as much of the savings can be passed on to consumers.

Here in Texas we have a tremendous opportunity to benefit from these rules. Truck freight in Texas is forecast to grow by 120 percent by 2040, and we are home to nine of the top 25 national freight bottlenecks, which means we can count on substantial cuts to both cost and pollution if these rules go into effect.

Industry support for stronger fuel-efficiency standards

Industry support for stronger fuel-efficiency standards has come from some of the biggest corporations in the United States.

PepsiCo Chairman Indra K. Nooyi joined EDF’s President, Fred Krupp, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed to urge “other business and environmental leaders to join us in supporting strong federal standards. Better fuel economy and higher efficiency help companies compete; less money spent on fuel means more to invest in products, processes, people, and communities.” One of PepsiCo’s global divisions, Frito-Lay North America, is headquartered here in Texas. Frito-Lay has a goal “to be the most fuel-efficient fleet in the country,” and these new standards could help them achieve this more easily.

Business leaders from the manufacturing, shipping, and industry trade groups expressed support for strong standards:

  • “Cummins supports the proposed [EPA and NHTSA] rule and believes it will help our industry grow in a more sustainable way, which is a win for our customers and win for the environment,” said Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO, Cummins Inc.
  • ”While there will always be a few who continue to deny the scientific reality of climate change, we understand that solutions, like efficient truck standards, will help us take on global warming, reduce fuel costs, and drive innovation,” said Jostein Solheim, CEO for Ben & Jerry’s.
  • “With or without standards, we strive to be one of the most fuel efficient fleets in the country. Clearly, the new rule is intended to further improve the efficiency of how we move goods throughout the United States,” said Doug Stotlar, President and CEO of Con-way Inc.
  • “Fuel is an enormous expense for our industry — and carbon emissions carry an enormous cost for our planet. That’s why our industry supported the Obama administration’s historic first round of greenhouse gas and fuel-efficiency standards for medium and large trucks and why we support the aims of this second round of standards,” said Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations.

Key benefits of proposal

Commercial trucks carry approximately 70 percent of all freight in the US, with heavy-duty trucks representing both the fastest-growing and second-largest segment of transportation for emissions and energy use. EPA and NHTSA project that the proposed standards would provide the following key benefits:

  • $170 billion saved in fuel costs over vehicle lifetime for truck owners/businesses.
  • $230 billion in net benefits to society, resulting from lower goods transport costs, energy security, health benefits, carbon reductions, and other benefits. This includes $150 per year which could be saved by each U.S. household, if savings are passed down to consumers by 2030, with annual savings increasing to $275 by 2040.
  • 25 million gallons of fuel saved each day (9 billion gallons annually), by 2035.
  • 36 million gallons of fuel saved each day (13 billion gallons per year), by 2050.

These fuel reductions will also result in significant health and air quality benefits. Of particular interest to Texas, where communities and families are hit hard by harmful ozone (“smog”) pollution, the new standards can provide key reductions in ozone-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx). For example, NOx could be reduced nationwide by 300,000 tons each year in 2035 and by 425,000 tons each year by 2050.

While an important step forward, the proposal misses key opportunities

As good as these proposed rules are, they could be better. And this announcement marks an opportunity for all of us to help improve the rule during the public comment period. EDF has called on EPA and NHTSA to set new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks that cut fuel consumption by 40 percent in 2025 compared to 2010. The current proposal also delays key levels of protections unnecessarily for more than 12 years (until 2027). There is no reason to wait to deploy solutions that provide fuel savings and carbon pollution reduction opportunities now.

Let’s work together to improve on this important proposal to secure the full economic and environmental benefits of a well-designed program for Texas and our nation.

Please considering letting these agencies know you agree: Public hearings will be held on August 6 in Chicago and August 18 in Los Angeles. The public comment period will close on September 11. 

image credit: flickr/Stephen J. Conn


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