Obama takes next step in fuel efficiency drive
February 18th, 2014
06:00 AM ET
10 months ago

Obama takes next step in fuel efficiency drive

Updated 2:10 p.m. ET, 2/18/2014

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama took the next step on Tuesday in his administration's effort to cut emissions and reduce oil use through better fuel economy on the nation's highways.

Speaking at a Safeway distribution center in Maryland, Obama instructed environmental and transportation agencies to get to work on the next round of gas mileage requirements for big trucks.

"Five years ago, we set out to break our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said. "Today, America is closer to energy independence and we have been in decades.

"For the first time in nearly 20 years, America produces more oil here at home than we buy from other countries. Our levels of dangerous carbon pollution, that contributes to climate change, have actually gone down even as our production has gone up," he said.

Obama's plan builds on a 2011 regulation that set the first-ever fuel standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-18. It aims to save some 530 million barrels of oil and cut emissions by roughly 270 million metric tons.

Now, the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency - as planned - must develop the next phase of targets for those vehicles for post-2018 model years.

Obama wants them in place by March 2015.

"What we were clear about what was, if you set a rule, a clear goal, we would give our companies the certainty that they needed to innovate and out-build the rest of the world," he said. "They could figure out if they had a goal that they were trying to reach, and thanks to their ingenuity and our work, we're going to meet that goal."

The effort does not require congressional approval.

Obama has facilitated aggressive increases in auto and truck fuel efficiency since taking office. Industry in most cases has responded with cleaner-burning engines, lighter and more aerodynamic designs and models that appeal to consumers hungry for fuel savings.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the latest announcement.

"Strong heavy truck efficiency standards will not only cut carbon pollution that fuels climate change, but also save consumers money every time they go to a store and save truckers money at the pump," Beinecke said.

Trucking industry leaders supported the latest proposal as well.

Congressional Republicans called the announcement old news, and urged Obama to join them in working on legislation that would create jobs.

"Surely in the past 20 days, the President could have found time to pick up his pen and respond to Congress," said Rory Cooper, communications director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "It's abundantly clear that President Obama is not interested in working with Congress to solve the problems facing working middle class families."

In his State of the Union address, Obama promised that 2014 would be a "Year of Action" and he would take steps through executive action in various policy areas that do not need congressional backing.

In Maryland, he touted actions he's taken since that speech in January, including raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, ordering a review of job training programs and creating a new way for low-wage workers to save for retirement.

Heavy-duty vehicles, including trucks, buses and vans, rank behind cars in the production of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, according to the Transportation Department.

Obama chose to make the latest announcement at Safeway because the company "has been a leader in improving trucking efficiency," a White House official said, adding that it has invested in "cleaner" technologies, improved aerodynamics, more efficient tires and larger capacity trailers.

soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "They are so concerned that it was a conservative that brought up such a valid point that they now must try to discredit you. Clearly, you have dominated them on this thread"

    Yawn. First, there's nothing wrong with a per-mile gas tax. You use the road and the taxes are designed to pay for infrastructure repair and construction, so what better way of measuring how much road you used. Sure, it'll have all sorts of silly arguments made against it, like "how do they know whether I used a federal highway or a local state road?", but it would survive any argument you can make thanks to the Commerce Clause. Second, the clear implication, no matter how much Fair tries to deny it, was that "uh oh, tax bogeyman cometh to abuse your wallet if they increase efficiency"...we've heard it all before from the right wing and only making the first part of their argument doesn't save you from accusations that you were intentionally implying the second part. Third, you and Fair both run away from any mention of the experts who have said that this will not cause gas prices to skyrocket, including any arguments made that the increased efficiency actually pays for, either wholly or in part, any increased tax rate that would need to come. Fourth, it's been 2 decades (1993) since any increase in the gas tax and that alone is causing problems due to the need for funding to repair aging infrastructure. Fifth, sorry, but having nice things like roads and bridges and tunnels and less traffic all costs money and should be a far higher priority than things like tax cuts for the insanely rich, whose businesses and investments all depend on the availability of those roads, bridges, tunnels, etc., in order for their businesses and investments to make them rich and without which, they'd never have become rich (or been born rich, as the case may be). Pretending to have not intended to allude to "scary" tax increases is just plain disingenuous.

    February 18, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    I am a total loser! I sit on the computer all day every day arguing with other loser because my life sucks and this is the only way I can make myself feel good. by making my voice heard because my opinion matters to who other then myself I don't know but my opinion matters and all the time I'm wasting blogging my life away on this site will change the government and it will make this country better because my insignificant options will be heard by both parties

    February 18, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. Bill from GA

    Fair is Fair, Miguel – "more deaths on the road from cars built with lighter materials"

    Highway deaths, overall, and especially per mile driven, have been going down consistently for decades.
    Smaller cars may be less safe, when in a collision with large cars or trucks, than large cars or trucks.

    But even a small car today is safer than an older large car without the three dozen airbags found in today's padded transportation cubicles. Not to mention idiot-proof avoidance computers, self-braking, anti-lock brakes, and other measures mandated by the Federal Government, to save us from harm.

    February 18, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    tom l
    I hate to say this but that is exactly what my 10 year old nephew does.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Would this be the same nephew that writes your posts?

    February 18, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. Bill from GA

    Fair is Fair – " Careful, Bill... you too can be called a fear monger. "

    Sometimes its fun to get Rudy's blood pressure up! He's often right, but when he's wrong he's as stubborn as a Tennessee Mule.

    February 18, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Bill from GA

    Rudy NYC – " Your opening salvo about a per mile taxation model was clearly fear mongering "

    Rudy, they are doing exactly that in Oregon, on a test basis. Sorry, there's no denying it. They are looking for solutions to the problem of LOST REVENUE, happening NOW, due to improved fuel efficiency, and electric cars.
    ---------------------------
    The tax hasn't been increased in over 20 years. The revenue stream has fallen behind inflation. It was set to 18 cents when a gallon of gas cost $1.11. More fuel efficient cars are not the catalyst behind a tax increase. Higher costs and inflation are the drivers. The cost of almost everything has at least doubled since 1993.

    [... except for homes, some places saw homes increase by a factor of five to ten between 2006 and 2007...]

    The cost of ependable materials has gone up, which includes everything from blacktop, to diesel fuel, to raw steel and concrete. We consume far more gallons than we did twenty years ago, but that trend has reversed itself the past couple of few years. Fair blames fuel efficient cars. I'd blame the Great Recession and higher gas prices for less gasoline consumption.

    February 18, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    tom l

    Fair, This is classic. They are so concerned that it was a conservative that brought up such a valid point that they now must try to discredit you. Clearly, you have dominated them on this thread
    -------
    Classic? Fair certainly spread the Fear around the thread, that's for sure. Sorry, tom, but Fair is wrong, but classic denial prevents her from admitting it. Reduced revenue does not require tax increases in order to offset the lost revenue. Fair has been trying to scare people with manufactured facts, and personal opinions that she's passing off as facts.
    ------–
    My God, Rudy... so defensive. It's OK. Don't lose sleep over it.

    February 18, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Fair is Fair

    Sniffit

    "Third, you and Fair both run away from any mention of the experts who have said that this will not cause gas prices to skyrocket, including any arguments made that the increased efficiency actually pays for, either wholly or in part, any increased tax rate that would need to come."
    -------
    I just LOVE those tax increases that pay for themselves!!

    February 18, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    I'd blame the Great Recession and higher gas prices for less gasoline consumption.
    ---------
    But Rudy... you've stated countless times that the "Great Recession" caused gasoline prices to plummet... you can't have it both ways, Dude.

    February 18, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    Rudy –

    The costs related to maintenance and construction of roads has definitely gone up. But tax collection due to efficiency has just as definitely gone down.

    How much in fuel tax does an electric car pay?

    ( Rudy NYC

    I am a total loser!)

    Rudy, I'm glad they don't have guns in NYC. We'd miss you!

    February 18, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  11. tom l

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    tom l
    I hate to say this but that is exactly what my 10 year old nephew does.
    -----------------
    Would this be the same nephew that writes your posts?
    ====

    See, now THAT was funny. :)

    February 18, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. tom l

    @Sniffit
    " First, there's nothing wrong with a per-mile gas tax. You use the road and the taxes are designed to pay for infrastructure repair and construction, so what better way of measuring how much road you used...Third, you and Fair both run away from any mention of the experts who have said that this will not cause gas prices to skyrocket, including any arguments made that the increased efficiency actually pays for, either wholly or in part, any INCREASED TAX RATE that would need to come. Fourth, it's been 2 decades (1993) since any increase in the gas tax and that alone is causing problems due to the need for funding to repair aging infrastructure."
    ======
    You do realize that your first point increase the cost for everyone, including the poor. Once again, you profess to care about the poor but then your policies directly impact them and cost them more money. For point #3, nobody, not Fair nor I, have ever once said that better fuel efficiency will lead to higher gas prices so you're off on that one, champ. As for your fourth point, so.....do I really have to spell this out as you have just confirmed exactly what Fair was saying and Rudy has been (trying but completely inaccurately to dispel) that with a reduction in consumption will lead to lower revenues and therefore a need to recoup those revenues somewhere. So you are admitting the need for more revenue.

    February 18, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. Fair is Fair

    Bill from GA

    Rudy –

    The costs related to maintenance and construction of roads has definitely gone up. But tax collection due to efficiency has just as definitely gone down.

    How much in fuel tax does an electric car pay?

    ( Rudy NYC

    I am a total loser!)

    Rudy, I'm glad they don't have guns in NYC. We'd miss you!
    -------
    Clearly a name-stealing troll, Bill. I know you know that... but coming from someone who's has it done to her numerous times, I'll defend Rudy.

    February 18, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "I just LOVE those tax increases that pay for themselves!!"

    That's not what I said. But please, feel free to continue mischaracterizing it. You sure do need the straw men. "Tax cuts create jobs and thereby pay for themselves" has never been proven and studies have even said that there's no evidence to support it over the past 60+ years. On the other hand, "efficiency saves money" is not an arguable point. Will that savings completely counteract any increase in gas tax that becomes necessary due to less gas volume being consumed? Who knows? But one thing is not up for debate: it does offset it to some unknown extent. Where you fall in that spectrum of offset depends entirely on the efficiency of your particular vehicle.

    "a reduction in consumption will lead to lower revenues and therefore a need to recoup those revenues somewhere. So you are admitting the need for more revenue."

    It MIGHT. However, properly characterizing it does not include "omg, slippery slope, they're going to charge you $5 per gallon in taxes." See above. The problem with your argument is that revenues have not been enough for the past 20 years anyway and yet, what happens when anyone proposes increasing the gas tax? Hmmm? What happened last time? Do you remember who threw a complete nutty about the mere suggestion? Do you want to tell us who will obstruct it because they see it as a way of "starving the beast" and forcing cuts to entirely unrelated things they don't like? Hint: You cheer their obstructionism but are ignoring that they would obstruct this imaginary tax hike too.

    February 18, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. Bill from GA

    Fair is Fair – "Clearly a name-stealing troll, Bill. I know you know that..."

    Ah, Gee, I knew THAT!!
    (And I thought I was sympathizing with Rudy, with a little humor.)

    February 18, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. tom l

    Fair,
    How hard did you just laugh at Sniffit's post? In the very same sentence that he accuses you of mischaracterizing and exaggerating, he mischaracterizes and exaggerates. I wasn't aware that you said that has prices would go up by $5. He then mentions straw man while making a straw man argument. All the while, Rudy was the one chastising you for exaggerating. Thanks for the laughs an dominating them. Clearly, they just don't like who delivered the message. :)

    February 18, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. Sad in the U.S.A

    Hey Obama! How about getting the big oil companys to LOWER the cost for fuel? I think they make way too much of the backs of Americans! Besides, how much tax did Chevron pay to the U.S.? The same as General Electric? Hmm..............................

    February 18, 2014 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. Fish

    Any improvement in fuel efficiency is great not can we gat to the true need which is building a hydrogen fueling infrastructure which began under GWB but died under BHO. I've never experienced a President go backwards before but this one most definitely has!!!

    February 18, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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