Heavy-duty vehicles in Obama cross hairs

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President Obama will unveil the next phase of fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles on Tuesday.

During his visit to a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., Obama will announce the new standards, which build upon the first standards the administration finalized for big rigs, semi trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles in 2011.

{mosads}The new standards continue Obama’s promised “year of action,” a White House official said on Monday. In the last five days, including the new fuel economy standards, the administration has set a stricter tone on the president’s climate policies.

On Friday, Obama pitched a $1 billion climate change resiliency fund, aimed at helping communities better prepare and prevent future extreme weather. And on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry used harsher rhetoric to describe the changing climate and its impacts during his speech in Indonesia, calling it a weapon of mass destruction and announcing new efforts on the international front.

On Tuesday, the “president will direct the EPA and the Department of Transportation to develop and issue the next phase of medium and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016,” the official said.

Together, the actions signal a shift in tactics on climate change and renewed push to bring the issue front and center as an administration priority.

Republicans have already voiced their dissent with Obama’s climate fund pitch and have his larger climate agenda in their cross hairs. The new heavy-duty vehicle standards will likely receive a negative response.

Under the set timeline, the agencies should issue a proposal notice by March of next year. The new fuel efficiency standards will build upon and extend the rules for model year 2014 to 2018.

This second-phase rule making will cover model years into the next decade, the administration said.

The first round of standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, finalized in 2011, is expected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce emissions by roughly 270 million metric tons, according to the administration.

That should save vehicle owners and operators about $50 billion in fuel costs.

“[Obama] is also partnering with private-sector leaders to deploy advanced vehicles and calling on Congress to take steps to expand fuel choices for American drivers. Those steps will help bolster American energy security, cut carbon pollution, save money, and support manufacturing innovation,” the White House official said.

During his speech, he will also urge Congress to repeal $4 billion in subsidies granted to the oil and gas industry each year via taxpayers — a move the president called for in his State of the Union this year.

Obama is once again touting his Energy Security Trust, which has gathered dust since first announced during his State of the Union address in 2013. The fund calls for using offshore drilling revenue to pay for research into alternative fuel and vehicles.

In addition, Obama will call for a new tax credit for advanced vehicles and infrastructure as well as an extension to credits that expired at the end of last year. The credit allowed to cellulosic biofuel producers expired in December.

“Just as clean car standards are revitalizing the American auto industry, which added more than 370,000 jobs, setting the bar higher for trucks will further encourage innovation in the industry. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Beinecke will be joining Obama as a guest the Tuesday’s even in Marlboro.

Tags Climate change Frances Beinecke Greenhouse gas emissions John Kerry Marlboro Maryland

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