Truckers and their suppliers, however, have largely embraced greenhouse-gas limits as a way to cut their future fuel costs. This month, the government will finalize the first-ever greenhouse-gas rules for medium and heavy-duty trucks between the 2014 and 2018 model years. Depending on the final standards, by 2030 the truck and passenger vehicle rules combined could cut annual emissions by 725 million metric tons, or 13 percent of the nation’s current net emissions.
One of the wild cards in the current negotiations is whether the California Air Resources Board — which imposed the nation’s first-ever limits on vehicles’ greenhouse-gas emissions — will endorse a second national standard or opt to pursue stricter limits on its own.
A look at the biggest carbon polluters
“If we are not on a pathway to solving the global problem of climate change with the national program, we reserve the right to set our own standards,” said Tom Cackette, CARB’s deputy chief executive, who did not specify what those standards might be.
While domestic auto manufacturers have privately pushed for a much lower efficiency target than 56.2 mpg, at least one — General Motors — has indicated it could meet strict standards.
“We’re willing to be pushed by a tough national standard,” Greg Martin, GM’s Washington spokesman, said in an interview. But he added: “The devil is in the details.”
Car companies suggest the average cost of a vehicle would increase by as much as $6,000 if it had to average 56.2 mpg 14 years from now; federal agencies put that increase at $2,375.
Environmentalists such as Roland Hwang, transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, note that consumers would save an average of $6,412 in fuel costs over the vehicle’s lifetime. Hwang said NRDC and other groups are still pushing for at least 60 mpg as the 2025 standard, adding: “We are very concerned about loopholes that can substantially undermine the 56.2-mpg target benefits.”
Meanwhile, in a brief filed by Texas and other states in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the plaintiffs questioned the EPA conclusion that vehicle emissions “contribute to the perceived but undefined danger variously referred to as ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming.’ ” They questioned whether the greenhouse gases coming from tailpipes qualify as air pollutants.