WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama moved ahead Tuesday with plans to further tighten restrictions on carbon emissions from trucks and buses, saying the new fuel efficiency rules will reduce pollution, save consumers money and help cut back on oil imports.
"It's not just a win-win, it's a win-win-win," Obama said in remarks delivered from a loading dock at a grocery distribution center. He ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department to issue a first draft of the regulations for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2015 and to finalize the rules a year later.
His announcement at a Safeway warehouse in Maryland was the latest in a series of efforts to show he won't be hemmed in by a Congress unable to find consensus on how — or whether — to tackle climate change. Obama recently announced the creation of new "climate hubs" that will work with farmers and ranchers to prepare for shifts in weather conditions. On Friday, he said he would ask Congress for a $1 billion climate change resilience fund to pay for research into extreme weather.
The new fuel efficiency requirements will mark the second phase of the effort to reduce harmful pollutants by targeting trucks.
In 2011, the Obama administration completed fuel standards for trucks that call for a 20 percent reduction in heavy-vehicle emissions by 2018. Experts estimated manufacturers would need to boost fuel efficiency for trucks to an average of 8 miles per gallon to meet the new standards, up from 6 miles per gallon at the time of the announcement.
Those rules applied only to truck models for the years 2014 through 2018. The next round of regulations will set standards for models beyond 2018.
Heavy-duty trucks are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the road, behind passenger cars, the White House said. The 2011 regulations are projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce emissions by about 270 million metric tons, according to the White House, which estimates savings of $50 billion in reduced fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered.
Obama's announcement Tuesday was met with cautious approval from the industry.
Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, said, "ATA hopes the administration will set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable."