Obama orders new green rules

President Obama on Tuesday announced he was ordering his administration to develop a set of new fuel efficiency standards for trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles.

Obama did not detail specific targets for heavy-duty vehicles, but said he expected a draft proposal by March of next year and for the rule to be implemented by 2016. The proposal will be an extension of standards first launched in 2011, and apply to future model years.

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While heavy-duty trucks and buses represent just 4 percent of the vehicles on the road, they generate 20 percent of the nation’s vehicular carbon pollution.

“We want trucks that use less oil, save more money, and cut pollution,” Obama said at a press event held at a Safeway distribution center in suburban Maryland, which he heralded as a leader in the bid to improve fuel economy.

The grocery chain is part of a public-private coalition designed to improve fuel efficiency through redesigning vehicles, and uses trucks with advanced aerodynamics, efficient tires and larger trailers.

Obama said the environmental “super trucks” were “a win-win-win” because they reduce carbon pollution, cut down on businesses’ fuel costs and reduce prices for consumers. He also applauded the willingness of corporate rivals to work together toward fuel efficiency standards.

“If rivals like Pepsico and Coca-Cola, or FedEx and UPS, or AT&T and Verizon can join together on this, maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same,” Obama said.

The president also said the government would offer new tax credits to truck and energy companies to encourage the manufacture of more efficient vehicles and alternative fuel networks.

Obama vowed the eventual regulations would be “ambitious.”

“These are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far. Don't make small plans, make big plans,” Obama said.

Obama also vocally defended his prior work on fuel efficiency standards, arguing doomsday predictions about how the auto industry would react to new regulations had not been borne out. In Obama's first term, the administration completed fuel standards requiring a 20 percent reduction in heavy-vehicle emissions by 2018, as well as a 35.5 miles per gallon average on regular automobiles.

“Every time somebody says you can't grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it's turned out they've been wrong,” Obama said.

Obama's push comes amid a broader White House push to address climate change issues. On Friday, Obama announced he would propose a $1 billion climate resiliency fund in his next budget, designed to help communities suffering from extreme weather. 

It also comes amid a broader effort by the president to use administrative action to move his policy agenda.

“Whenever I can act on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans and help build our middle class, I'm going to do that,” the president said.