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At a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., President Obama announced the initiation of a second round of efficiency standards for heavy- and medium-duty trucks Tuesday. He didn't say precisely what standard the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation should set. But the administration will strike for an "ambitious" goal for trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more. Heavy-duty trucks now average about 5.8 miles per gallon.

In the background at Safeway was a truck weighing 80,000 pounds. The grocery chain was picked as the venue because the company has made considerable progress in making its truck fleet more efficient. Obama said:

"The goal we are setting is ambitious. But these are areas where ambition has worked out really well for us so far.

"Every time someone says you can't grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it turns out they've been wrong. Anybody who says we can't compete when it comes to clean energy technologies—like solar and wind—they've had to eat those words."

Quite true. But, as John Miller of the Energy Collective has written, focusing exclusively on trucks without a fresh look at returning some freight to rail transportation is too timid.

More on that below the fold.

Early in his State of the Union address last month, Obama took note that today in America, "An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil."

In fact, emissions from passenger vehicles in the United States are falling, but only four of the top 10 most fuel-efficient commercially available cars in the world are made by U.S. manufacturers. The improvements being made in the U.S.-made fleet come as a result of the standard mandated by Obama in 2010 that the average gas mileage for passenger vehicles must reach an unadjusted fuel-economy rating of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The way testing is done, however, that impressive doubling of the old standard amounts to an EPA window-sticker rating of just 36 mpg.

Peter Lehner at the Natural Resources Defense Council writes that by 2030, the passenger vehicle standard is slated to save consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and cut carbon pollution by 580 million metric tons, equal to emissions from 140 coal-fired power plants.

Currently, however, emissions from heavy- and medium-duty trucks are on the rise. Although they make up only four percent of vehicles on the road, they gobble up 20 percent of the fuel consumed and emit 20 percent of the carbon pollution. The 18-wheelers that make up the bulk of these trucks move freight about 1.33 trillion miles each year.

The first round of efficiency standards for heavy trucks, set by the Obama administration in 2011 for the 2014-2018 model years, are estimated to save truckers $50 billion a year in fuel costs, eliminate carbon pollution by more than 50 million metric tons a year and save more than 140 million barrels of oil a year.

The president called for the higher truck-efficiency standard to be issued by March 31, 2016. Obama also renewed his call to end subsidies to oil and gas companies and, with the saved revenue, create an Energy Security Trust Fund. If Congress could ever be persuaded to agree to something it has refused so far to do, ending those subsidies would provide money for research and development into advanced vehicle technologies. In addition, Obama proposed supporting investment in advanced vehicles and infrastructure with a new tax credit and an extension of tax credits to support development of cellulosic biofuels.

Lehner says of stricter truck efficiency:

We already know how to do this. According to the National Academy of Sciences, we have cost-effective technologies today which can cut fuel consumption and carbon pollution in trucks five percent a year. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) says that the U.S. on-road trucking fleet can cut its oil consumption 1 million barrels per day in 2030, which is roughly the amount of oil we imported from the Persian Gulf in 2012.
Higher fuel-efficiency standards have run into considerable resistance in the past. In fact, they were stuck at 27 mpg for more than two decades, with improvements blocked by lobbyists for the automobile industry, the United Autoworkers and members of Congress with strong ties to both.

The Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, an informal alliance of some of trucking's biggest fleet operators, greeted the call for new truck standards affirmatively Tuesday. In a statement posted on the site of the American Trucking Associations, President Bill Graves urged the administration to move "judiciously":

“We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the President and his administration in 2011 when the historic first fuel efficiency standards were set for heavy-duty vehicles. As we begin this new round of standards, ATA hopes the administration will set forth a path that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable. [...]

“Fuel is one of our industry’s largest expenses, so it makes sense that as an industry we would support proposals to use less of it. However, we should make sure that new rules don’t conflict with safety."

It took years of fighting to develop the new passenger vehicle fuel-efficiency standard, although it was kumbaya from all parties except diehard right-wingers when the standard was announced. Perhaps, with experience gained from that battle, the negotiations will go a bit smoother this time.

But while the inevitable maneuvering goes on, the administration ought to be looking beyond a new truck standard at the greater efficiencies to be had from switching some shipments from heavy-duty and medium-duty trucks to rail. This is a tall order. And it would take considerable time. However, adopting policies that spur investments in infrastructure that not only help boost the economy but also reduces our impact on the carbon-choked atmosphere is the kind of far-sighted approach we need after decades of singing la-la-la with our fingers in our ears.

Rail used to dominate both passenger and freight transport until the 1950s. But trucks could deliver goods more flexibly to far more locations than rail, and the spread of the interstate highway system gave long-haul trucking a tremendous boost. Railroad infrastructure declined, which also reduced how much freight could be shipped by rail. But rail still has one very big advantage: It is about four times as efficient as trucks.

Practically speaking, rail could only be expected to replace a fraction of what trucks haul. A rail line can't be built to every door. Miller at the Energy Collective calculates that a 25 percent switch would be a reasonable figure. That would change the current balance to 46 percent freight by rail and 24 percent by truck. (The rest moves by pipeline, barge, plane.)

Taking this step based on the existing 2014-2018 truck efficiency standards would save about half a million barrels of diesel fuel each day and 68 million metric tons of carbon emissions. That, Miller writes, would be equivalent to doubling today's renewable energy sources' electricity-generating capacity:

Switching [heavy-duty-vehicle] Trucking to Rail also presents many additional potential advantages and future benefits. Besides reducing the HDV wear-and-tear and associated costs for maintaining nearly all highways and roadways, increasing the infrastructure, terminals and numbers-usage of Trains potentially creates many other clean energy opportunities. In nearly all cases the bulk or intermodal freight shipments must be transferred and distributed to their final destinations via MDV/HDV Truck transports. These more centralized on-road supply chain distribution systems provide the opportunity to utilize increased alternative fueled vehicles such as natural gas ICE MDV/HDV Trucks. Natural gas motor fuels are more ideally suited for shorter-range transport that utilizes centralized (commercial) re-fueling stations. Since displacing diesel motor fuels with natural gas generates less than 30% of the carbon emissions, the added carbon emission benefits could be quite significant.
Just upgrading lines and increasing the fraction of freight that rail moves even while locomotives still burn oil would make a significant difference. But switching ever-more freight to railroads operating with green-sourced electricity would be far better.

One element of such a transformation would be a project long championed by development economist Bruce McFarling—the Steel Interstate. That would eventually encompass 36,000 miles of super-efficient electrified rail. Combined with more efficient trucks, a revamping of America's rail system would go a long way toward cutting the U.S. contribution to global carbon emissions.

Now that's a goal that truly deserves to be called ambitious.

•••

A Siegel has a post on this subject here.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 02:39 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How to aid rail w/o aiding coal and walmart? (4+ / 0-)

    IIRC, coal and big box retailers are biggest users of rail: coal from WY., goods from China go eastward from CA, natural gas/oil from ND.

    I think it would be helpful to identify rail bottlenecks that wouldn't overtly benefit coal. Chicago to NYC?

  •  Rail Rail Rail (7+ / 0-)

    Keep the trains rolling.

    Here in the Greater Philadelphia area we need to make another run at putting a valid rail line along 422 and complete my dream project which would link up the entire Western burbs in a loop by reconnecting the Media / Elywn line with the Paoli/Thorndale line.

    •  That's an important issue (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26, Odysseus, BYw

      There has been an incredibly low rail line construction for the last 50-60 years in the USA. Lack of line duplication as well. In fact, you see abandoned rights-of-way pretty often.

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:39:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is there a rail line near this Safeway... (7+ / 0-)

    ...distribution center? If a siding could be built, great, but the trend has been to locate along the roadway Interstate only. How do you easily reverse that trend without abandoning a lot of nearly-new buildings?

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:11:37 PM PST

    •  That's why Miller posits only a... (9+ / 0-)

      ...25% switch. Obviously, trucks are still going to be a crucial part of the mix.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:31:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you have the train depot, say, (8+ / 0-)

        within 50-100 miles (1-2 hour drive), the trucks are used a lot less for shorter distances. You either have a container truck where the entire container is loaded on the train (like containers on ships), or the trailer is loaded intact then another cab car picks it up at the destination (assuming that a cab car that's not pulling a trailer would weigh less and thus get better fuel mileage).

        Adding more rail would make our highways safer; less wear and tear by heavy trucks would mean less damage to the roads, and if truck drivers aren't forced to drive long distances there's less chance of them falling asleep behind the wheel and causing accidents.

        There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

        by Cali Scribe on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:14:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Abandoning nearly new buildings is (6+ / 0-)

      a major part of the business plans of WalMart, Sam's Club and other retailers. It would be nice if they could be re-purposed.

      Interestingly, in our city there is a WalMart that has train tracks running right next to the parking lot. They get all their goods by truck.

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:37:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or just torn down and turned into community (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, hooper, Lily O Lady

        gardens and green spaces.

        I know some people might think that paving the whole world is a good idea, but really it's not.

        I would love to see cities claim eminent domain to take some of those spaces back from wastes of space like Walmart.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:12:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Frankly (7+ / 0-)

      a lot of newly built speculative buildings probably should be abandoned.  We have a massively inefficient legacy of bad building in terrible places.  Yes, it is a mess, but then if people had listened twenty years ago when scientists and planners started saying that sprawl was a terrible idea, then the folks who own those sprawl buildings wouldn't be in a bind now.  

      Complaining at this point is a bit like murdering your parents and then pleading for clemency on account of being an orphan.

  •  Absolutely agree ... (8+ / 0-)

    as to the value / importance of Steel Interstate (which, by the way, was one of the more serious gaps in Energize America).

    Even so, also merit highlighting that -- yet again -- the full benefits of action are actually being understated in support of action.  See Pres. Obama's Truck Efficiency is a W6+ solution: Win-Win-Win-Win-Win-Win+

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:19:15 PM PST

  •  California HSR seems to be dying now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey

    and someday, if the spirit ever moves me, I may write about how insanely difficult it is to get any new transit project started. I find the subject too depressing to follow outside of what I'm required to for my job.

    I partially blame Elon Musk for the death of CAHSR (and it is coming). His ridiculous poor-access hyperloop and its really stupidly, absurdly low $6 billion figure probably is busy floating around a lot of legislators' heads. Only partial blame though. There's lots of blame to share.

    I love the steel railroad. I bet the major rail freight providers love it too; they just don't want to pay for it themselves. they own the tracks in the US. Con Rail was an aptly named government corporation.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility

    by terrypinder on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:23:51 PM PST

    •  I was very disappointed to see the Sierra Club (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey, northerntier, BYw

      getting in the way of the financing plan and Governor Brown's proposals for CA high speed rail.

      •  The problem is that the chosen routing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Anne Elk, nextstep, Simplify

        went through some very environmentally sensitive areas -- it would have done a lot of damage.

        Another issue was here on the Peninsula; San Francisco insisted on having direct service to the city rather than passengers transferring to another train in San Jose. There are many at-level rail crossings that would have to be relocated to make HSR possible on the Peninsula -- and that would mean a lot of money plus people possibly losing their homes because there would have to be two sets of tracks, one for the high speed rail the other for the current Caltrain service.

        Mr. Scribe is way more knowledgable on this than I am -- someday maybe I'll have him help me write a diary on the flaws of the plan, and how they could have been avoided.

        There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

        by Cali Scribe on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:21:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not the routing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jiffypop

          That's a small part of it. But  that's not the whole story.

          The real reason, despite the heroic efforts of Gov. Brown, is that there is no stable source of funding.


          ODS results in Obama's amazing ability to humiliate his biggest critics, on the right and the left.

          by NoFortunateSon on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:39:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, Cali. We are of one mind on this. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify

          It's a bit like the BART to SFO. That dumb-ass Quentin Kopp got a ballot initiative going that mandated the BART extension go right into the new International terminal rather than connect with Millbrae Caltrain station from which a people mover would have covered all terminals. Instead, we got BART going into the International terminal and still had to end up with the inter-terminal/car rental train, leaving the Millbrae folks out in the cold. Once again, the work of the self-appointed "expert" overrides that of actual, qualified transportation engineers. Sheesh!

          Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

          by Anne Elk on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:50:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
          the chosen routing went through some very environmentally sensitive areas -- it would have done a lot of damage.
          Railroad right of ways take less land than freeway right of ways and California does not seem to have any compunction about constructing those virtually everywhere.   What exact land damage is being claimed from this project?   We're not talking about present protected natural areas with this route as near as I can see.

          That separate tracks are required for the high speed rail system from present/other rail systems is an engineering requirement that is not addressed by the Sierra Club comments.

          Mostly what I see here is Sierra Club getting in the way of a needed energy conservation project that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases compared to existing highway vehicle and air transportation in California.

          That the Sierra Club is willing to create problems for Governor Brown in promoting this energy conservation and jobs project means the Sierra Club acts contrary to the overarching need for greenhouse gas emission control.

          Carl Pope would have never interfered with a California high speed rail project.   That Michael Brune thinks it is a good idea to oppose high speed rail illustrates that Sierra Club urgently needs a top leadership change.

    •  I think the CA HSR is just awful. (0+ / 0-)

      Not the concept, the execution. What is being proposed is to build high speed rail through some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The San Francisco peninsula? Really? All to be able to have passengers step off the train in downtown SF. For $68 billion (plus the rest)? Puh-lease. We have BART system. It's perfectly good enough to have HSR go up the east side of the bay. That would save a few bucks. But what would have saved even more would have been to just buy the Chinese system. The Chinese would even have partially financed the project. The politics of this project have all but killed it.

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:45:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gotta go downtown (0+ / 0-)

        Every leg of the trip takes riders away. You don't build a new system from the ground up and then stop it 50 miles from its real destination.

        It would be like deciding to build a DC to Boston HSR and stopping the DC leg in Baltimore and calling it a day.

        •  We have a regional transit system (0+ / 0-)

          Why do SF residents - at huge expense - get favored over the rest of the Bay Area. Connecting into BART at Oakland for SF riders is the same as connecting into SF BART for Oakland residents. What do have against Oakland anyway?

          Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

          by Anne Elk on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 09:54:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  If CA does high speed rail, it should do a next (0+ / 0-)

      generation rail (or other land based transit) that goes 300 mph or faster.  Use this as the opportunity to build a world leading rail manufacturing base, and increase the attraction of rail in ways 100 mph rail cannot throughout the US.

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:03:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Add to that high speed passenger rail as well. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, BYw

    "When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy...." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:28:17 PM PST

  •  Of course (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NedSparks, LinSea, hooper

    The big difference between mandating new standards for trucks via the EPA/DT and a multi-billion Federal infrastructure  spending is one depends on having a Congress that will fund it.

    god forbid we give the man a little credit without wagging a finger at him.

    Now that's a goal that truly deserves to be called ambitious.

    Obama 2012 http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/

    by jiffypop on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:30:22 PM PST

  •  And the median age of the American Automotive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, HeyMikey, Roadbed Guy

    fleet is now more than 11 years.

    So -- how much fuel do we save if we can't buy the cars?

    As to trucks, that will be interesting to see.

    Honestly, I'm amazed that an 80,000 lb truck can top 5 miles per gallon.  Cut that weight into Prius equivalents, and you're talking about 25 Priuses, which, driving altogether, wouldn't hit 2 miles per gallon.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:35:45 PM PST

  •  National Defense Railway system (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, Odysseus

    Require the Army Corp of Engineers to create a High Speed Rail system capable of moving one division with equipment
    from coast to coast within 24 hours.

    That means a big system going from Ft Lewis to
    MacDill and  San Diego Pendelton to Hanscom Mass.

    Then the Rail space is made available to civilian uses.

    The tracks have to be wide enough to haul long haul
    big payloads. ( M-1 Tanks,  Crusader Guns, ICBM missiles)
    and Heavy  and fast enough to support  Coast to Coast in 24 hours.  ( We are talking 150 MPH)

    And require it be able to handle at least 3 tracks.

    That's something the country would have a consensus on.

  •  Mexican trucks into US (6+ / 0-)

    NAFTA allows Mexican trucks to carry goods in the US
    https://www.fas.org/...

    While US safety and labor hours requirements are enforced for these trucks, pollution standards are not.

  •  Great topic. Rail is without question (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cjtjc, HeyMikey, Odysseus, BYw, Calamity Jean

    the most efficient way to move these loads.

    Here you get into a dispute with the trucker's unions. If only we could stop the thinking of what are they gonna take away from me and see how we can work together. That is the only thing stopping us from having a greener transportation system.

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:44:52 PM PST

  •  The president led with fossil fuels in (0+ / 0-)

    the SOTU and then mentioned other sources of energy. I think fossil fuels will always come first with him.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:05:46 PM PST

  •  Goals that make sense: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, HeyMikey, BYw

    Local, local, local....
    Freight by rail...
    Freight weight and trailer limitations...
    Bullet/Electric passenger intercity trains...
    Light rail city transport...
    Incremental hourly rental trucks, cars and bikes...

    The idea is to reduce fuel consumption...
    The idea is to return to local production...
    The idea is to return to public transport...

    And for the last 75 years, we have been going in the opposite direction, courtesy of big oil, big car and big truck transport...

    And it's gonna cost money...

    As if the bank bailouts didn't?

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

    by unclebucky on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:07:54 PM PST

  •  More sidewalks needed, more bike lanes needed (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, HeyMikey, Odysseus, BYw

    more serious urban planning needed, making walking-biking friendly communities.

    More good public transportation needed too.

    The days of the POV representing the mustang on the open prairie are over.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:10:48 PM PST

    •  AMEN. And... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, BYw

      In addition to the obvious health and environmental benefits, look at this:

      Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million
      http://www.peri.umass.edu/...

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:19:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  IT would be ever so nice, to walk to the store (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey, northerntier, Odysseus, BYw

        and not have to jump out of the road and into a ditch to avoid being ran over.

        It would be nice to drive around parts of the metro areas in Oklahoma and not see disabled people in wheel chairs forced to rid along with traffic ON THE ROAD, because there are no sidewalks. None!

        In this state, they will pave the crap out of parks all over the place, and spend huge amounts of money, but not spend the money to put sidewalks in town, where people who want to walk, bike or have to be in a wheel chair or scooter can use.

        And if you point that out, they just get nasty about it.

        It makes NO SENSE!

        Okay, end of rant.

        Rail? They won't support that much either, but what do we expect in the state that funds the fracking of other states and communities.

        "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

        by GreenMother on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:34:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Less than meets the eye. Jevons paradox. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    This is the typical half measure we get from modern Democrats. It grabs headlines so they can be seen as "doing something," but delivers less than what's really needed--which, in this case, is a price on carbon (and other greenhouse emissions).

    The Jevons Paradox:

    as technology progresses, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use led to increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.
    More fuel-efficient trucks will mean:

    * Less reliance on rail, which is WAY less carbon-intensive.

    * Less rethinking of production & supply chain to minimize schlepping around of materials.

    * Postponing investment in hybrid or battery-electric trucks (like this: http://wrightspeed.com/... ).

    * Thus continued reliance on oil (think Keystone XL) and natural gas (fracking) instead of conversion to grid power. Which, with a price on carbon, would be increasingly nuclear & renewable.

    And of course, a price on carbon would produce--ta-dahhh--federal revenues. Lessening pressure on food stamps, Social Security, infrastructure jobs, etc.

    Understand, despite all this, I think the new efficiency standards are Better Than Nothing. But, as on so many issues, the Dems are once again the Lesser Evil.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:24:25 PM PST

    •  So more efficient trucks are a bad thing? Jeez! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jiffypop, BYw

      No, they're not.  Apparently Obama gets shit from us even when he does what we'd want.

      The Jevons paradox is an observation, not a reason to do nothing.  It can be useful in making more accurate estimates of the effects of increasing efficiency.  But other than that, what's its value?

      Every step in the right direction is valuable. This is not a small one.  We'll need many thousands - millions, maybe - of these steps if we're to avoid real catastrophe.

      Trains, yes.  Carbon tax, yes.  Kill Keystone, yes.  Stop exporting coal, yes.  Etc.  But there's no need to trash actual progress when it happens.

      •  The president doenst have a frigging clue (0+ / 0-)

        If a company, ANY company came out with a Semi that was a: legal b: would actually do the job c: got 2mpg more average EVERY single trucking company in america would replace their entire fleet TODAY. They operate on math.. not emotionalism or ideology.

        A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

        by cdreid on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 07:30:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You didn't read my whole comment. (0+ / 0-)
        Understand, despite all this, I think the new efficiency standards are Better Than Nothing.
        I suspect more efficient trucks will give us a temporary cut in fossil fuel use, which we can make permanent IF we put a price on carbon in conjunction or soon after.

        But if we don't price carbon, then fossil fuel use will increase again.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 04:44:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Quite Unrealistic - (6+ / 0-)

    I have been a rail historian, researcher, and advocate for almost 40 years. What you are Miller suggest is extremely unrealistic for a multitude of reasons. Sixty years ago, yes, you take grandma's old upright piano to the freight station in thousands of towns across America and send it to thousands of other towns. Such has not been the case for quite some time.

    LTL freight (Less-than-truckload) has been abandoned by rail as extremely unprofitable. The economics and time constraints of modern merchandising mean there are few products that can be competitively shipped by rail - mostly bulk items like grains, coal, petrochemicals.  Even then, the quantity and frequency of bulk freight has to be such to justify unit train service. For example, smaller communities in Montana and the Dakotas have lost rail grain service because their elevators do not store enough to make unit service profitable. Thus, they have reverted to truck.

    Even the piggyback freight of old has been replaced, largely, by containerized shipping from port to delivery - single unit trains that can be shuttled with a given frequency. The combination of labor costs, equipment capital costs, facility costs, and fuel costs means that small-scale and even medium-scale operations of old have been pared. The collapse of the Penn Central and other lines in the Northeast and Midwest made clear the need to radically reduce excess and underused capacity.

    As for electric, the story of the Milwaukee Road is illustrative. The Milwaukee's mainline ran from Chicago to Seattle. It had the longest electrified segments outside of the Northeast Corridor. There were significant maintenance and equipment coast, but the Milwaukee did benefit from cheap electricity in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, they chose to dieselize just when the oil embargo hit. The Milwaukee is long bankrupt and its electrified trackage abandoned.

    Electrification is extremely capital intensive and appropriate only where high speeds and/or high volumes are indicated. Few rail lines in the U.S. meet those criteria - especially when diesel fuel appears to be the lower cost alternative for the next few decades.

    If there is the political will to underwrite costs that cannot be recouped by the market, then there might be the possibility for greater rail usage by smaller scale units and electrification. But it would require a significant subsidy at a time when such funding is highly unlikely.

  •  Chevron says "Stay thirsty my friends"... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw

    "Round up the usual suspects"

    by NanaoKnows on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:29:24 PM PST

  •  Interested in trains? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw

    There was a fantastic interview with Tom Zoellner, the author of 'Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World' on KQED this morning.  If you love trains, have memories of train travel or are interested in the future of trains, you will love this podcast.  I plan to get a copy of the book and immerse myself.  

    Podcast here

    Journalist Tom Zoellner is back from a rousing trip around the world -- entirely by rail. In his book, "Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World," Zoellner charts the history of the locomotive along the world's most important railways, from the birthplace of the steam engine in Cornwall, England, to the frigid stretches of the Trans-Siberian railroad. We'll talk about his journey and discuss the future of high speed rail.
    Host: Michael Krasny
    Great diary, as always.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:35:46 PM PST

  •  You'd think that diesel-electric format (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    demongo, BYw

    would be a pretty good approach for trucks. It's what has been used for locomotives for ages, the main advantage being huge torque at low revs, i.e. when you are pulling off from a stop. Turns out that there is a system already in production. So maybe the answer is just to require a transition to it.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:37:45 PM PST

  •  Electric Heavy Trucks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw

    Electric motors supply loads of torque, this may be one of the best places to use this technology.

    I would tell you the only word in the English language that has all the vowels in order but, that would be facetious.

    by roninkai on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:41:19 PM PST

  •  How can you seriously ask for or more rail... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jiffypop

    ...when rail projects around the United States are under constant assault?


    ODS results in Obama's amazing ability to humiliate his biggest critics, on the right and the left.

    by NoFortunateSon on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:41:25 PM PST

    •  Social Security is under constant assault (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw, Calamity Jean

      and yet I hope most of us would be on board with expanding it, given the policy upsides.

      That defensive way of thinking is exactly what has gotten the Democratic Party to where it is today.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:14:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Social Security exists (0+ / 0-)

        My objection was poorly phrased. What I meant to say is that the implication that Obama has faked t deliver about a three order of magnitude increase in rail funding is tone deaf considering that many wonderful rail projects initiated under the ARRA are in dire states.


        ODS results in Obama's amazing ability to humiliate his biggest critics, on the right and the left.

        by NoFortunateSon on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 06:29:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Because it's a great solution to our problems? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw

      Pound for pound, rail is the most efficient way to move freight.  Exploit that efficiency.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:15:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The issue is to look beyond what can be done... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoFortunateSon

      ...given the current make-up of Congress. Yes, Obama has initiated some very good actions in transportation (and in renewables), as I have reported and praised previously over the past nearly five years.

      And, yes, he is limited by know-nothings and the general obstructionism of Republicans and some members of his own party. But, as noted in my post, the process of switching some truck traffic to rail is a long-term effort and not even including mention of it when we're talking about improving efficiency is short-sighted, in my opinion. You label that insulting because it's more important to you that Obama humiliates the left than actually lays out a vision—a vision we all know can't be accomplished without a change in Congress.

      I'm a believer in "make him do it," something the president himself gave us reason to believe he supports. Making him do it requires more, obviously, than just yammering. It means working to provide him (and his Democratic successors) more allies in the House and Senate, But if he would push harder on certain ideas, vastly expanded, green-sourced rail, it could help create those allies.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 03:08:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well it's about time... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw

    This has been a sore point with me for years--ever since the "Hummer Exemption" was put in place to allow people to classify Hummer SUVs as utility trucks.

    This allowed them to a) be exempt from the fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and other passenger vehicles, and b) allowed buyers to write off the entire purchase price of the vehicle as long as it was being used for "business".

    Note that this latter point was intended to allow companies to purchase pickups to support their contracting/agricultural businesses.  Instead, where I live in Silicon Valley, every other mansion on the block had one or more Hummers parked in front--paid for courtesy of the taxes of the 99%.

    Seeing GM go under and be forced to cut loosed the Hummer brand in particular was a nice bit of schadenfreude for me.  I'm only disappointed more GM execs didn't go to jail or get forced to retire.

    "When and if fascism comes to America...it will not even be called 'fascism'; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism'" --Professor Halford E. Luccock of Yale Divinity School; New York Times article from September 12, 1938, page 15

    by demongo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:12:22 PM PST

    •  ...and at the same time, no incentives for hybrids (0+ / 0-)

      One of the key advantages of regulations is to incentivize beneficial market behavior and disincentivize destructive behavior.

      This kind of regulatory manipulation by corporations is what disgusts me about lobbying, and republicans in particular.

      The right-wing attacks on the solar power industry are the most recent example.

      "When and if fascism comes to America...it will not even be called 'fascism'; it will be called, of course, 'Americanism'" --Professor Halford E. Luccock of Yale Divinity School; New York Times article from September 12, 1938, page 15

      by demongo on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 11:26:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  US should lead in this technology rather than (0+ / 0-)

    use alternative fuels as agricultural subsidies

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:20:58 PM PST

    •  that sir (or maam) (0+ / 0-)

      Is a publicity gimmick. Much like walmarts vaunted "electric semi" and "hybrid supertrucks"... that walmart DOES NOT RUN. And it's not btw because walmart is "replacing it's old fleet".. walmart buys the GNP of a small nation every year in new semi's.... you wont see any of it's gimmick trucks on the road.

      A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

      by cdreid on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 07:33:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  36 MPG (0+ / 0-)
    The way testing is done, however, that impressive doubling of the old standard amounts to an EPA window-sticker rating of just 36 mpg.
    That's an EPA COMBINED MPG of 36 MPG. Setting that as an average for all vehicles is no small potatoes improvement, when you consider that that's the same as the highest rated gasoline vehicle in 2000 - the Chevy Metro.

    Those who ignore the future are condemned to repeat it.

    by enigmamf on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 05:58:28 PM PST

  •  So now they have stealth Safeway trucks? (0+ / 0-)

    Not in my neck of the woods, where they're all covered with visual pollution similar to this

  •  To whom it may concern: (0+ / 0-)

    I know this is crazytalk here but.. how about some info from an actual trucker and one time owner operator. Im trying to be calm but this REALLY pisses me off. This is a handful of clueless idiots in DC once again screwing over the most regulated industry in the united states.

    First: the picture up top is a STOCK freighliner cascadia. It does get passable fuel mileage and is a decent truck. It is NOT a supertruck and doesnt get the best fuel mileage by FAR. The best all around fuel mileage truck out there right now is a top end International Prostar. Btw freighliners are cheap junk. That's why you see so many of them on the road carrying the megacarriers name.

    The "supertruck"... is a giant scam. It's been shredded in every trucking forum etc in the country. It is an illegal, overlong , stripped down truck with a lot of ridiculous, unuseable plastic on it for fuel mileage. It was tested by running it across literally the best toll road in the united states at 15mph under the speed limit, unlimited time for acceleration and of course no need to ever touch the brakes carrying an Underweight load. Well duh it's going to get good fuel mileage. It's a scam and hte preznit, in desperate need to hit up one of the dem constituency groups (noticing a pattern yet?) that he didnt give a flying CRAP about before bought in hook line and sinker.

    Fuel mileage: heres a little factoid for you. A 2mpg increase will pay for a Brand New truck in 2 years simply due to the mileage increase. Semi's cost $90-150k a piece. If his fictional 75% increase were possible.. dont you think every trucking company in america would be buying that truck TODAY? Companies have replaced entire FLEETS for 1mpg increase. The president is either clueless or a liar. Take your pick.

    On "Trucks use 4% of the fuel and produce xx% of  pollution but are (whatever) micropercent of vehicles".. WELL DUH. Your car weighs 2.5k pounds .. and gets if youre LUCKY 30mpg driving the same local roads every day. The average semi carries 40 to 45,000 pounds and weighs Eighty Thousand Pounds fully loaded and gets... 6.5mph. It is MUCH more efficient than your car. It also has Thousands of antipollution equipment including DEF fluid. Modern trucks are relatively Extraordinarily clean. Truckers literally joke that you could breathe what comes out of the stacks.

    Big trucks are NOT your car. We dont travel  10 miles to walmart once a week and  10 miles to work each day on local very well maintained flat roads. Let me give you my current dedicated run as an example. I start in SC... travel back roads through small cities for about 20 miles.. constantly stopping and starting. Then 10 mile on a relatively flat nice interstate. Then i hit the first of multiple 6 and 7% grades.. (translation: STEEP). I then travel through less steep roads around asheville, nc.. theyre just a bit hilly, for about 40 miles. then i travel another 50 miles through some of the steepest longest grades in the US for another 40. Then i drive down an extraordinarily twisty back road for 10 miles. Then through heavy city traffic for ten miles. I average 5.2 to 5.5 mpg. The truck in the picture above would be shredded after doing that for 2 years. The "supertruck".. wouldnt do it.. period...

    We need politicians who talk about things they have a bloody clue about. But then politics is solely about either controlling other peoples money or controlling other peoples lives. So lets make a deal. Mandate a 5mpg increase in 5 years. And watch 1 or 2 more of the big US companies go out of business. Watch truck involved traffic fatalities skyrocket. Watch truckers get home even less. And .. something that may actually hit home to you.. watch everything you own skyrocket in cost. Because Trucking is at the BASE of the inflation pyramid folks. Maybe you'll get that part if nothing else.

    The president  was either full of it or had no clue what the hell he was talking about. You can like or hate that i said that... but it's the truth

    A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

    by cdreid on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 07:28:12 PM PST

    •  The regs are already in place for the next 4 years (0+ / 0-)

      this announcement was about the standard starting in 2018, which will be published in 2016.  The standard thru 2017, may be found HERE:

      http://www.dieselnet.com/...

      Mandated improvements by 2017 over a 2010 baseline are only 7-20% for tractors.

      No one who knows anything about this expects a 10mpg average for fully loaded semis 5 years from now.  The President's remarks are aspirational chum for the masses, not a technical document.

      However, if you think everything economic that can be done is being done without mandates, you are much mistaken.  

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 03:28:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe you didnt read what i posted? (0+ / 0-)

        Im really sick of Obama.. he's destroying the damn party with his fake stunts and that is what this is. And he could give a damn that it does massive damage to an entire industry and millions of workers. This is just like gun control, abortion, etc etc. He is trying to leave office without massive negatives by putting out dogwhistles to the one issue voters. The problem is this one can do real damage.

        Again.. if you can get a 2mpg increase every company in the trucking industry will replace its entire fleet that year. Every single one. The company that could do what would literally own the market. The reason they dont? Physics.

        A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

        by cdreid on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 12:12:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No disrespect (0+ / 0-)

          for your experience.  My brother is an owner-operator, and I know several folks who operate small private fleets.

          I'm an engineer, several of my siblings and in-laws are engineers, my brother-in-law's degree is in physics. All of us have done real, practical work in addition to taking degrees.

          The idea you are expounding that significant progress in fuel efficiency would already have been made if it were physically possible is really founded on an idea from one of the softer sciences--economics.  It's basically the efficient market hypothesis, and it's a useful concept, but far from a physical law.  There are certainly physical limits to fuel efficiency, as well as economic limits on what level of efficiency can be practically attained.  However the idea that these limits have already been reached is simply not correct.

          Once you accept that fact, the question becomes, WHY haven't the advantages of fuel economy that you note been a strong enough market force to result in increased fuel efficiency?  What other market forces are at work?

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 03:07:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Conflict between gdp growth and environ protection (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smileycreek

    Despite the laudable goals laid out in his speech, Obama is still promoting economic growth with his repeated claim that "Every time someone says you can't grow the economy while bringing down pollution, it turns out they've been wrong,"

    In fact, a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection is well established. Increasing population and per capita consumption result in more resource use than the earth can rejuvenate; and more emission of wastes than the earth can absorb. A steady state economy that neither grows nor shrinks within reasonable bounds is the sustainable alternative to economic growth.

    Pushing for economic growth actually harms tomorrow's economy!

    The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) is a great source for solid information on limits to growth and the steady state solution.

    www.steadystate.org

    •  What about creating economic growth by (0+ / 0-)

      investing in infrastructure, particularly rebuilding the energy grid for more energy independence?

      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for,
      not just what we’re against.
      ---> President Obama, 2014 SOTU speech

      by smileycreek on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:20:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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