Medium and heavy-duty trucks account for 25% of all fuel use in America, and President Obama wants to improve their efficiency by an “ambitious” amount. But can Obama get it done before his presidency comes to a close?
In his most recent State of the Union address, Obama’s energy goals were fixated on natural gas and semi-truck fuel economy. This isn’t exactly new territory for the Obama administration, which has helped fund the Supertruck project that aims to improve big rig fuel economy by 50% by 2016. So far the Supertruck has delivered some promising results, achieving an average fuel economy of nearly 10 MPG without any fancy drivetrains or alternative fuels.
Not that Obama isn’t pushing for those advances either. Testing on hybrid and CNG-powered semis is already under way on several different fronts, and natural gas maven T. Boone Pickens isn’t sitting quietly on the sidelines either.
Obama is delivered on the details though in a recent speech at a Safeway distribution center in Maryland, where he outlined several aspects of the proposed plan that gets trucks on clean street as early as 2016. The efficiency-improvement plan takes place in steps, and begins with the setting of new medium and heavy-duty fuel economy and emissions standards by March of 2016.
The administration is also going to push for more powertrain diversity among big rigs, from hybrids to CNG to more aerodynamic solutions. The goal is to cut fuel consumption, one of the single biggest expenditures owner-operators suffer on the open road. But don’t expect these standards to go into effect without a fight, as Obama also wants to end some $4 billion in oil and gas subsidies to major corporations, putting that money towards cellulosic ethanol and other biofuel research.
It’s a step in the right direction for Obama, but it could come a little too late in his presidency. By March of 2016, Obama will have less than a year left in office. While the trucking industry seems receptive to these ideas and ambitions, how will buyers react to the higher prices this new technology adds to their bottom line?