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EPA, NHTSA Release Fuel Economy Standards for Trucks

The Obama administration released fuel economy standards on Tuesday for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, raising the bar for efficiency compared to an earlier proposal.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the final standards will achieve 10 percent more greenhouse-gas reductions than last year’s proposed standards would have, cutting a total of 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions compared to today’s vehicles.

While the standards don’t apply to most cars on the road, they’re a significant part of President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. These vehicles make up only 5 percent of the country’s traffic, but are responsible for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and oil use in the transportation sector, according to the EPA.

The standards go into effect starting in 2018 for some trailers, and in 2021 for semi-trucks, large pickups, vans, and buses. They can be achieved by a number of technological and design changes, including aerodynamic trailers and engine improvements.

Environmental advocates praised the standards, pointing in particular to how they could save fuel costs down the road.

In a statement, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp called the requirements “rigorous and common sense standards that will reduce climate pollution, protect public health, make us more energy independent, and save money for both truckers and consumers.”

The EPA said in its announcement that the buyer of a 2027 long-haul truck would recoup the cost of fuel-efficient technologies in less than two years because of the amount of fuel saved. Including the agency’s estimates of the social cost of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, the economic benefits of the rule outweigh the costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio, the EPA said. The total cost of the standards ranged from $19 billion to $31 billion, according to EPA’s estimates, while the total benefits could range from $136 billion to $260 billion.