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For Immediate Release, August 9, 2011

Contact:  Kassie Siegel, (760) 366-2232 x 302

New Truck Fuel-economy Standards Are Baby Step, Not Much-needed Giant Leap

WASHINGTON The Obama administration finalized the first-ever combined fuel-economy and greenhouse gas standards today for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks, similar to those currently in place for passenger cars and light trucks. However, the new truck standards — while they reduce emissions more than doing nothing would — will still allow the total carbon pollution from this sector to increase, as more trucks are driven more miles in the future.

“These standards are a baby step, not the giant leap the climate crisis demands,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The Obama administration is legally required to achieve the maximum feasible fuel economy improvement; the new standards, sadly, simply don’t do that.”

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for approximately 20 percent of transportation greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 6 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, said Siegel, it’s essential to curb this source of emissions to avoid dangerous climate change.

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are divided into three categories for the purpose of the new standards: combination tractors (semi trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (like transit buses and garbage trucks) with different fuel-economy requirements for each category. The largest heavy-duty, long-haul combination trucks account for about two-thirds of all fuel use from this sector and currently average only about 6 miles per gallon.

Today’s standards were created under the authority of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Clean Air Act. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act requires that truck fuel-economy standards be “designed to achieve the maximum feasible improvement.” The standards announced today fall far short of that mandate by passing up such achievable improvements — idling reduction techniques, aerodynamic improvements, tire technology and waste-heat recovery, among others.

Despite data showing that emissions from the largest long-haul trucks, for instance, could be lowered by 50 percent by 2017 at a net cost savings to the truck owners, the standards require only a 20 percent reduction from these vehicles by 2018. 

It is vital that swift, significant reductions in greenhouse gas pollution are enacted. The effects of climate change are already upon us, manifested in sea-ice loss, drought, heat waves, sea-level rise, an increase in disease, crop failure and species extinction risk.

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