Big rigs and other heavy vehicles will have to cut their carbon emissions and fuel consumption 25 percent from current models under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.
The rules are the last in a suite of regulations that have been issued under President Obama's climate change agenda.
The tractors used in tractor-trailer vehicles, delivery trucks, school buses and other vocational vehicles by 2027 are expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions emissions by 1.1 billion tons and reduce oil consumption by 84 billion gallons, compared to the first round of standards that expire in 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the California Air Resource Board jointly announced the regulations.
In addition, heavy-duty pick up trucks and vans must become 2.5 percent more efficient annually between model years 2021 and 2027.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the new standards "ambitious and achievable," and said it's up to the automobile sector to develop new technologies to meet the standards.
"We expect these will drive innovation as well as protect the air we breathe," she said.
The government did not immediately release the expected costs of the standards, but said the expected $170 billion in fuel cost savings would more than outstrip the costs.
According to a White House fact sheet, the new standards will have the pollution reducing effect of removing all the cars in the United States off the road for one year. The vehicles covered by the new regulation account for about 20 percent of carbon emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, which is the second-largest carbon pollution producing sector in the country next to power generation. Many scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels for driving manmade climate change.
The new rules also come with more spending plans from the federal government.
As a part of the package, the Department of Energy will spend $137 million to improve vehicle and truck efficiency — $80 million to develop technology to make trucks more fuel efficient and $57 million on developing new light-duty vehicle technologies.
Department of Transportation Director Anthony Foxx added that the agency will help local transportation authorities upgrade their buses to include more hybrid vehicles.
"We are at a pivotal point in our fight against climate change and its catastrophic consequences," he said.
The new standards will affect a huge amount of trucks bringing consumer goods to market. About 70 percent of the freight in the country is moved by truck, McCarthy said.
While there would be costs associated with the new regulations initially, McCarthy sought to reassure truckers and consumers alike that over time the new standards will result in a cost savings to vehicle owners and the public alike.
"These standards are ambitious and achievable and they'll help ensure the American trucking industry continues to drive our economy and also protect our planet," she said.
The rule was immediately slammed as anti-business by the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank.
Thomas Pyle, president of the group, said the rule was an example of regulators thinking they know what's good for business instead of listening to the industry. He added that the new rules are unlikely to have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change.
"These sorts of heavy-duty trucks are owned and operated by companies that have every incentive to save money on fuel," Pyle said. "This regulation only serves to increase the cost of owning and operating these truck fleets — making it more expensive to do business in the U.S."
Environmental groups rejoiced in the new rule.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it would take two years for truck owners to recoup the costs of updating their trucks with fuel savings and could cut fuel use by 16 percent.
"This is a win-win for businesses and our climate. It saves money, encourages innovation and reduces carbon emissions," Suh said. "Cutting transportation pollution helps the U.S. meet its climate goals, but we can't ease up on the gas pedal in our efforts to make vehicles cleaner and more fuel-efficient."