Green Update–>Finally, the EPA Goes After Large-Truck Emissions

October 26th, 2010

The semis and work trucks that do much to power our economy (or what’s left of it) also generate a disporportionate share of its pollution. And so far, they have been exempt from federal standards.

That is to say, 4 percent of all our road traffic accounts for 20 percent of the oil consumed. Put another way, together these vehicles “generate 20 percent of road-going emissions.”

Proposed new administration standards would cut emissions by the the big rigs (tractor trucks) 20 percent by 2018. Heavy-duty pickups and vans (like those hauling big trailers) must get reductions of 10 percent (gasoline-powered vehicles) or 15 percent (diesels). Buses, RVs, garbage trucks, and delivery vans will also have to cut 10 percent—all by 2018. The new regs would take effect in 2014.

We think that’s a very good thing. Others (scroll down and View all Comments) were quick to explode and lambaste big government, the Obama administration, and even methane emissions (scroll down to comments) of truck drivers.

The proposal makes too much sense for these people to understand.

First, the $7.7 billion investment required for upgrading engines and aerodynamics, better tires, reduced idling, reduced weight, and better batteries (maybe foreseeing hybrids) will pay off in a $49 billion lifetime benefit of fuel savings, lower emissions, and reduced noise.

EPA claims that the program would save 500 million barrels of oil over the first five years. With more-efficient trucks, operators could “save as much as $74,000 over the truck’s useful life.”

Finally, the loopholes that permitted large SUVs like the Hummer and the Excursion to be exempt from fuel economy standards will be closed. A little fairness at last.

Maybe most important: It’s basic math that increasing fuel-economy standards on cars that get 35-40 mpg doesn’t have much payoff. The big impact (see above) comes from dealing with vehicles that get poor mileage.

An improvement from 12 to 15 mpg yields a fuel consumption reduction of 200 gallons per year over 12,000 miles. Even going from 21 to 24 mpg saves 71.4 gallons annually. By comparison that 10 mpg increase from 50 to 60 mpg only saves about 35 gallons.

It’s long past time for the big boys of the road to clean up their act. You know it, and they know it too: The CEO of the American Trucking Association said that the standards “are feasible and can be attained through technologies currently available.”

Is this more big government at work, or justice at last for those caught behind a stinking semi?

—jgoods

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