In a Rose Garden announcement today, President Obama signed a memorandum ordering the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to cut oil dependence by issuing the first ever efficiency standards for heavy duty trucks. With existing technology, President Obama said, the efficiency tractor-trailers could be increased by 25 percent.
Flanked by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, energy and climate czar Carol Browner, and half a dozen representatives of the heavy duty trucking industry, the President also announced that he would direct the agencies to outline plans for light duty efficiency standards beyond 2017 by November. The agencies just finished work on standards through 2016 on April 1.
The memorandum also called for increased support for new infrastructure for electric vehicles. This kind of support could make the transition to electric vehicles more successful by encouraging infrastructure to be built along with the vehicles.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf, which took the lives of 11 workers and will cause untold economic damage to the Gulf states for years to come, is a grim reminder why today’s announcement is so important. The problems and failures of oversight that led up to the oil spill still must be addressed. BP must be held accountable for the damage it has caused.
But the political and economic pressure to take risks such as this and drill in deeper water or more remote locations cannot be alleviated without efficiency improvements in the transportation sector. The President’s announcement today shows his commitment to putting the nation on track to cut oil dependence. The standards announced for 2016 will cut oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of vehicles sold from 2012-2016.
Moving forward with heavy duty efficiency standards and pushing ahead to set the stage for greater improvements in light duty vehicles are the best response to the BP oil spill. Public Citizen will continue to watch as these standards develop to ensure that these standards push technology forward and bring the best possible efficiency improvements.
Lena Pons is a policy analyst at Public Citizen.