EPA Proposes Tougher Emissions Standards For Trucks

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  today proposed tougher emissions standards for heavy duty trucks, vans, and busses, the first such upgrade for this category of vehicles since 2001.

I am aware of the irony of the administration proposing new emissions standards at a time when skyrocketing world oil and natural gas prices will do far more to reduce emissions – as users cut back on their energy use – than any tweak in standards.

Nonetheless, these new rules are the latest in a series of Biden administration policy initiatives intended to address climate change and other environmental standards. Per the New York Times:

Late last year, the E.P.A. tightened standards on auto pollution and announced new rules governing methane, a climate-warming gas that leaks from oil and gas wells. This year, the agency is expected to roll out new restrictions on greenhouse gases and on industrial soot released by power plants.

As to specifics, the NYT reports:

The new draft rule from the Environmental Protection Agency would require heavy-duty trucks to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide by 90 percent by 2031. Nitrogen dioxide is linked to lung cancer, heart disease and premature death.

The E.P.A. also announced plans to slightly tighten truck emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is driving climate change. The new rules for nitrogen oxide pollution would apply to trucks beginning with the model year 2027, while the carbon dioxide rules would apply to trucks starting with the model year 2024.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the new standards could increase the cost of new vehicles significantly. That might lead to users keeping older vehicles on the road longer, thereby keeping emissions high and running counter to the Biden administration’s goals:

“We’re concerned that the oldest, highest-emitting trucks on the road today are disproportionately operating in communities suffering from the greatest pollution,” said Jed Mandel, president of the truck and engine manufacturers’ group.

EPA officials say that the new standards should reduce asthma and other public health problems. Per the WSJ:

“These new standards will drastically cut dangerous pollution by harnessing recent advancements in vehicle technologies from across the trucking industry as it advances toward a zero-emissions transportation future,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said.

The Biden administration is framing the truck rule as an issue of environmental justice and elected to have Vice President Kamala Harris announce the new policy. Per the Grey Lady:

The administration is portraying the truck rule announced Monday as central to Mr. Biden’s agenda of environmental justice, as many communities of color are located alongside highways and are subject to elevated levels of pollution.

“Seventy-two million people are estimated to live near truck freight routes in America, and they are more likely to be people of color and those with lower incomes,” the E.P.A. administrator, Michael S. Regan, said. “These overburdened communities are directly exposed to pollution that causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems, among other serious and costly health effects. These new standards will drastically cut dangerous pollution by harnessing recent advancements in vehicle technologies from across the trucking industry as it advances toward a zero-emissions transportation future.”

California Leads

The new federal standards match those implemented by California last year According to the WSJ:

For new trucks, industry officials have projected that a federal standard that matches California’s rules would increase the cost by between $8,600 and $21,200 for model year 2027.

The trucking industry maintains that it may note be technically feasible to meet the new standards.Whether or not that claim is true is way above my pay grade. But in general, I get suspicious whenever an industry spokesperson criticises heightened regulation on feasibility grounds. Per the WSJ:

The California “standards have never been demonstrated to be technically feasible,” the Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association told White House officials in December. “No [manufacturer] has said they can produce complying product.”

Mandel elaborated further adverse effects in comments to the NYT:

“We’re worried about the cost. There is a potential of adverse impacts on the economy and jobs. Nobody wants to see union jobs laid off. Regular lunch-pail, blue collar workers.”

These claimed impacts may hit small truckers hardest, according to the NYT:

Jay Grimes, director of federal affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said new restrictions would be especially onerous for small truckers, which he said comprise 90 percent of the industry.

Environmentalists, however, say the new federal standards don’t go far enough. According to the WSJ:

Public-health groups, along with state and local agencies, have pushed the EPA for even tighter rules to help improve air quality both in small, economically disadvantaged communities and major metropolitan areas that experience smog.

They say vehicle-exhaust rules haven’t focused enough on emissions from idling or slow-moving vehicles. The online-shopping boom has also led to an increase in home deliveries as well as warehouses moving into office parks located closer to neighborhoods.

Trucks “are producing the most pollution when they are moving by people’s homes, schools and workplaces,” said Ann Jaworski, a lawyer with nonprofit Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The new federal rules are expected nonetheless to have a public health impact. According to the NYT:

The new limits would prevent up to 2,100 premature deaths, 6,700 hospital admissions and emergency department visits, 18,000 cases of asthma in children, 78,000 lost days of work and 1.1 million lost days of school by the year 2045, according to E.P. A. estimates.

The new rules are not stringent enough to achieve the Biden administration’s ultimate stated goal – to achieve a trucking fleet of all-electric vehicles. According to the NYT:

“It’s great to see that the rule is driving 90 percent reduction in air pollution in heavy-duty vehicles and at the same time opening the door to reducing greenhouse gas pollution,” said Drew Kodjak, executive director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research organization. “But we’ve got this thing called climate change and we’ve really got to start driving electrification in the heavy-duty truck sector. My big concern is that the proposal as it is written will not do that.”

Advocates for warehouse workers, many of whom are exposed to constant diesel pollution, said they would like regulations that replace diesel-fueled trucks with electric or zero-emissions vehicles.

“Cutting emissions anywhere is good,” said Yana Kalmyka, an organizer with Warehouse Workers for Justice. “But if you’re thinking about a community that has tens of thousands of trucks a day passing through it, electrification is the only just solution. The rule is not addressing other industrial truck pollutants such as soot, and we know that black and brown communities are facing cumulative burdens from these pollutants.”

These standards, if implemented in 2022 as proposed, might mitigate the public health impact of trucking emissions. Yet as we’re all well aware, time’s running out to take steps on the more pressing issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change. According to the NYT:

Transportation is the largest single source of greenhouse gases generated by the United States, representing 29 percent of the nation’s total emissions.

The E.P.A. has said it intends to create another set of greenhouse gas rules for trucks, beginning as soon as model year 2030, that will be “significantly stronger” than the current standards, and designed to speed the transition to all-electric trucks.

“Waiting for another few years to do the next set of greenhouse gas standards for trucks is wrong. We just don’t have time,” said Margo Oge, an expert on electric vehicles who headed the E.P.A.’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. “My hope is that they will use this time to strengthen the standard now.”

Alas, I fear this administration, as was the case with its predecessors, is not up to the stark challenge we face.

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  1. Michael.j

    If anyone wants to get really depressed, Peter Carter, joined Paul Jay on “The Analysis News” today, and went over the February 28, IPCC report.

    It’s not bad, just a lot worse in that the IPCC finally acknowledges what 2 degrees does to the critical feedback loops, ie it’s over.

    I’m surprised such honesty got into such a publication.

    In my totally unrealistic fantasy I’m hoping the sanctions on Russia are a last gasp attempt to crash this madness.

    This may not get past moderation, but someone ought to check it out.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If “sanctions on Russia” means “sanctions on Russian oil”, they are probably meant to create pressure to re-invigorate the market for Alberta Tar Dreck and resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline across America. Beyond that, they are probably to increase the “market vacuum” enough to suck some Venezuelan Orinoco Tar Dreck into the oil markets as well.

      So I don’t think such sanctions would be meant as a stealthy way to reduce the rate of carbon skyflooding.

  2. Gordon

    The MSM has for a long time combined greenhouse gas emissions prosaically with toxic emissions. This makes the narrative around vehicle regulation extremely confusing. The two types of emission require very different regulatory responses.

    Any engine powered by hydrocarbon fuel must emit CO2 (and water) to function. Toxic emissions of NOx, CO and unburned hydrocarbons are an unintended consequence of imperfect combustion. Regulating toxic emissions is rightly done by regulating the engines and the vehicles they’re installed in, but regulating CO2 emissions can be more effectively done by taxing the fuel.

    Someone with a 100 mile commute emits more CO2 in a Prius than their coworker who drives a Tahoe but has only a 10 mile commute. Simply mandating that a Tahoe get better fuel economy won’t improve GHG emissions unless we’re also going to regulate how far people are allowed to drive. The same logic obviously applies to heavy trucks.

    We used to have the political will to raise fuel taxes to pay for roads. Alas, we haven’t done so since 1993, to the detriment of the federal highway trust fund.

    1. anon y'mouse

      most people don’t live wherever they choose. they live where they can afford to.

      if we all could afford it, we’d all have 10 mile or less commutes.

      so, your plan is to tax people commuting because they pulled off a “drive until you qualify” strategy, and of course the ones rich enough to live in swanky bedroom communities can afford it already.

      i hope this “plan” involves building more housing and transit, and tons more affordable housing, otherwise it won’t fly.

      people in this country were said to have “chosen” suburbia. i think there has been enough proof put forward that it was chosen for them by many other profiteers and strategists (disregarding frontier mentality). or many would still be living in dense cities with transit as the Euros do.

  3. Mark Dempsey

    From Aeon:

    This essay in the Aeon website has some fairly significant things to say about economics and the “law” of supply and demand. Raising the price of carbon is the point of taxing it…and “everyone” knows that raising prices diminishes demand…everyone except the real world, apparently.

    Here are some excerpts:

    “In February 2021, the Chicago University IGM Forum asked a panel of distinguished economists if President Biden’s proposal of a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour – a level whose ratio to the average wage is in line with the levels in other countries – would lower employment for low-wage workers: 45 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed it would; only 14 per cent disagreed. This, despite a preponderance of research that has shown no meaningful disemployment effects of raising minimum wages.

    “If even the simple supply-and-demand curve, a staple of the orthodox neoclassical framework, fails on something so fundamental as wages and employment, why do economists cling to it? And why do policymakers keep listening to them?

    “Perhaps the answer to the first question lies in the second. In 2009, the then US president Barack Obama appointed Cass Sunstein as his regulation tsar, with a remit to help cut automotive emissions. Sunstein argued a carbon tax on fuel was the most efficient way to influence people’s behavior because that’s what the neoclassical dogma says. The fact that the tripling of fuel prices in the previous decade had not fundamentally changed Americans’ car purchasing patterns apparently did not merit consideration.* Neither did the fact that other regulatory measures imposed in Europe had led to a far larger increase in fuel economy with only a modest price signal via higher fuel prices.

    “In 2020, the UK government appointed Mark Carney – a former governor at the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England – as climate change adviser. Carney was quick to declare the problem to be essentially a mispricing of the cost of emitting carbon. Neither Sunstein nor Carney are experts in climate economics, let alone climate change. But being economists, both men believed they knew how the world worked and therefore had the toolkit to provide solutions to the world’s gravest and most complex problems. Political leaders believed them. In effect, their self-confidence made them more employable.”

    *Local note: Californians still build our cities as sprawl–a design pattern that eliminates walking. Every trip of any significance must be in an auto, and every driving-age adult must own a car–perhaps the most regressive “tax” known to man. Even the walk to a transit stop is often uncomfortable, even unsafe, and not enough potential customers live within a walk of the stops to make transit viable, never mind the buses come only every three hours.

    The region has 20 years worth of unbuilt infill, yet local governments continue to approve outlying, commute-lengthening development. This is because land speculators can purchase agricultural land for a few thousand dollars an acre, then, when they get the development entitlements, sell that same land to builders for 50 – 100 times what they paid for it.

    The market-favored solution to commute-lengthening sprawl is mixed use (offices and neighborhood commerce among the residences), mixed-income (multi-family among the single family), pedestrian-friendly development. People actually pay premiums to live in such neighborhoods, even if the homes are not new… See the McKinley Park neighborhood for one.

    In better news, the state of California now mandates pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly “Complete Streets” for all new development, and focuses on minimizing vehicle miles traveled rather than congestion reduction. For a look at how “planning” actually works locally, see this (from 1993 Business Journal), or take a look at Steve Keen’s Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor Dethroned. (Sorry, not an easy read.)

    Personally, I’d compare our current (neoclassical, neoliberal) economics to someone who wants to guide their automobile by turning the rear view mirror. It’s not just futile, it’s dangerous.

  4. Oleg

    Anyone who wants to do something about the climate should first:

    Give away or sell your car, truck, or boat, unless sail.

    Turn off your natural gas line into the house.

    Give away or sell your A/C unit.

    Stop using heat and hot water.

    Marry into a very wealthy family that has all the latest green devices.

    Keep everything listed above, including your P.J. That’s private jet to you, and work to create money making schemes to tax other people’s carbon use.

  5. chris

    The problem with all everything environmental advocates are saying in the article is that they have no alternatives that people can shift to without a lot of assistance. So they’re going to make power more expensive, some plants will shut down rather than comply with the new regs, and electric and gas bills will go up. Grid reliability will go down. The cushion we need to transition to different energy sources will shrink.

    No one who’s behind these policies will suffer. But lots of poor people will suffer terribly. Especially with increasing temperatures during the summer. Or during freezes in the winter.

  6. ambrit

    Personal attacks are “not on” here mister. Sarcasm, yes. We appreciate a bit of wit and irony. Bald faced personal attacks however are the sign of a failure to collect and deploy reasoned arguments.
    Also, how about the last forty years or so of “offshoring” jobs to boost corporate profits? I do not see how that can be ‘spun’ as being inspired by the Left. A lot of people lost their American jobs due to that.
    As for predictions about the climate. Hah! Have you not been paying attention to the recent history of demonstratable increases in the extremes of ‘weather?’ Human energy use may not be the only factor contributing to the warming of the Earth’s climate, but it is the only one I know of that we have any control over. We have to do what we can with the tools available to us. Just sitting back and watching the disasters accumulate is the antithesis of civilization.

  7. JBird4049

    Upgrading and expanding public transportation everywhere and making it free, while doing the same for the railroads both transportation and cargo would be a godsend. Making transportation available for everyone while reducing the effects of raising fuel costs. Then use tax credits or just straight up checks for buying new vehicles would also do wonders.

    Keep the existing emissions rules for the old vehicles, while tightening them for new vehicles would also work without hurting the average person, business, or municipal public transit. People who wanted to keep the old jalopy, collectors car, or some such could do so, while everyone else would just transition to the improved versions when the wheels fall off the old one.

    But this is just common sense that would help with global warming, boost the economy, and ease transportation difficulties all without hurting anyone, which is why the government ain’t going to do it as it’s communism or helps the poors too much or something.

    Sometimes, I just truly hate this willful stupidity of our supposed betters. Are we sure that the movie They Live is not true?

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      IIRC, Ken Livingstone, while Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1981-6, sought to make London public transit free. One of the reasons Mrs. Thatcher abolished the GLC.

  8. Felix_47

    Anyone who wonders why there are so many giant SUVs on the road should look this over. The 50% business driving number is easy to come up with and hard to dispute. Lunch meeting, had to go back to work for something, rental property etc. etc. easy to come up with it. That is why we see so many SUVs and pickups in suburban driveways being used for commuting. We are subsidizing gas guzzling SUVs big time and we have for a long time. I wonder why the Biden administration is not concerned about this loophole……The best selling vehicles in the US are in this group. Ford F 150, Chevy Silverado, Cadillac Escalade etc. The attitude is that Uncle Sam is paying you to drive one of them. This is the low hanging fruit. The truck issue is to placate the recent migrants to the Long Beach area around the port and their lawyer advocates. The first thing many of them do is get a big SUV. They did not come to the US to walk or ride in a small car that saves gas. Go to any construction site.

    From the internet (but it matches my understanding):

    Section 179 Deduction. Qualified Vehicles.
    Small businesses can use Section 179 to write off a portion of qualifying business vehicle purchases in 2022.

    The following list and informational guide is updated for 2022. For questions regarding vehicle eligibility and rules applicable to your business, please consult with your accountant.

    What Vehicles Qualify for the Section 179 Deduction in 2022?
    The list of vehicles that can get a Section 179 Tax Write-Off include:
    • Heavy SUV’s, Pickups, and Vans that are more than 50% business-use and exceed 6000 lbs. gross vehicle weight can qualify for at least a partial Section 179 deduction, plus bonus depreciation.

    What Trucks and SUV Models Qualify?
    To meet the weight criteria, the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) must exceed 6,000 lbs. You can verify the GVWR of a particular vehicle by checking the manufacturer’s label that’s normally located on the inside edge of the driver’s side door where the door hinges meet the vehicle’s frame.

    Here’s a partial list of SUVs and Trucks that qualify for a tax deduction.

    Audi Q7
    BMW X5, X6
    Buick Enclave
    Cadillac XT5, XT6, Escalade
    Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Traverse
    Chrysler Pacifica
    Dodge Durango, Grand Caravan
    Ford Expedition, Explorer, F-150 and larger
    GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon
    Honda Pilot 4WD, Odyssey
    Infiniti QX80, QX56
    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Land Rover Range Rover, Discovery
    Lexus GX460, LX570
    Lincoln MKT AWD, Navigator
    Mercedes-Benz G550, GLS, GLE, Metris, Sprinter
    Nissan Armada, NV 1500, NVP 3500, Titan
    Porsche Cayenne
    Tesla Model X
    Toyota 4Runner, Landcruiser, Sequoia, Tundra

    *Note: Qualifying for a deduction will depend on stated use, vehicle GVW (which varies with trim packages and options), and more. Please consult with your accountant regarding the eligibility of any particular vehicle.

    Can Both New and Used Vehicles Qualify for Section 179?
    As with all Section 179 deductions, the vehicle must be new, or new to you. So yes, used vehicles will qualify, along with brand new.

    Is There a Time Limit for Using Section 179 for Vehicles in 2022?
    Yes – you must buy and put the vehicle into service between 1/1 and 12/31 of the calendar year you are claiming the write-off.

    Can I Finance a Vehicle and Take a Section 179 Deduction?
    Yes, and this can be a very effective way to get the work vehicle you need, and save on taxes. And if your company is more than two years old with a good credit history, Section 179 Qualified Financing can help you save even more!

    Am I missing something? Should we all go out and get an F 150 or BMW X5?

    Oh and the gas, maintenance, oil, insurance etc. is deductable as well. And most of my legal community does this. I mean you have to carry bankers boxes of documents home to review or take to court……right…..?? Need a Cadillac Escalade to do it……right? So driving a big gas guzzler could be cheaper than a cheap small high mileage car with the deduction for most people.

    1. John Zelnicker

      Felix_47 – I am a tax accountant and your source is right about the deductions, but I don’t think all of those vehicles would qualify.

      For instance, a basic Ford F-150 doesn’t quite hit the 6000 lbs GVWR, or at least the ones a few years old don’t. Most minivans like the Odyssey and Grand Caravan usually aren’t heavy enough either. The fanciest, loaded versions of these my qualify.

      It’s apparent from the question about financing that your source is trying to get buyers to finance their purchase through them, whoever they might be. That’s fine, but I wouldn’t take their word on any individual vehicle without checking the GVWR.

  9. Pickford

    Still haven’t cleared up the backlogs of containers in Long Beach. Reduce the number of owner operator truck drivers, must be 21, must be union in certain ports, strip street legal from existing trucks with new regs, brilliant.

    Thanks for your first year of disaster Mr. Biden your time until complete senility.

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