For one thing, it's the first time there have ever been fuel efficiency standards for trucks. The new rules, which apply to model years 2014 to 2018, will force big rigs to slash fuel consumption by up to 23 percent. Gasoline-powered heavy-duty pickups and vans will have to cut consumption by 10 percent, or by 15 percent if the vehicles run on diesel fuel. The White House projects savings of 530 million barrels of oil and $50 billion in fuel costs over the expected lives of the vehicles covered by the new standards.Goodell also provides broader context on just how much progress the Obama administration has made in getting the trucking and auto industries on board with regulation:
And the new rules are not just about saving fuel. The air will be cleaner, and the planet a little cooler. Vickie Patton, general counsel for the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, says the regulation would cut climate pollution by 270 million metric tons between 2014 and 2018.
But what's really important about this latest announcement is that it shows how far the truck and auto industry have come in moving into the 21st century. Just last month, Obama announced a deal with automakers to double vehicle-efficiency standards to 54.5 MPG by 2025. If the agreement gets finalized, it will be, as David Friedman, deputy director of the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists put it to me, "a historic deal."
In the world of energy politics, the fact that automakers have agreed to these ambitious new standards is mind-boggling. After all, for decades Detroit fought hard for decades against tougher fuel efficiency standards, arguing that the engineering challenges were huge and expensive to implement and would likely kill the U.S. auto industry.