President Obama chose the White House Rose Garden as the spot to sign an executive order establishing the first-ever vehicle emissions standards for big rigs and other heavy trucks beginning in the 2014 model year. The emissions directive also calls on the automotive industry to promote development of plug-in hybrids electric cars and other vehicles that utilize biofuels and natural gas.
“The disaster in the Gulf only underscores that even as we pursue domestic production to reduce our reliance on imported oil, our long-term security depends on the development of alternative sources of fuel and new transportation technologies,” the president said.
It was exactly one year ago that Mr. Obama, flanked by car company CEOs, announced the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks that took into account greenhouse gas emissions as a factor. Hailed as a revolutionary step by environmentalists, that move ordered a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency by 2016, totaling a 35.5 miles per gallon average for both cars and light trucks. Friday’s directive ordered federal agencies to begin development of even more stringent standards for 2017 and beyond.
The memorandum on freight trucks is a significant victory in the fight against vehicle emissions. Though big rigs represent less than five percent of all vehicles on U.S. highways, they consume more than 20 percent of the total of transportation fuels utilized. Averaging only 6 miles per gallon, they are the second largest consumers of oil, burning more than 2.4 million barrels per day.
The signing of Friday’s order brought a swift reaction from the environmental community.
“We applaud President Obama for this historic announcement to improve the fuel economy of trucks,” said Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club. “We urge the administration to set the strongest standards to drive us towards an oil-free energy future.”