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Indiana University

Expert source: Federal fuel policy expert discusses proposed fuel efficiency standards

October 26, 2010
Bloomington, Indiana -- Editors: John D. Graham, dean of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, previously served under George W. Bush as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (2001-2006) where he chaired the interagency work group that revitalized the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.

New fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses are being proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the agencies, the proposed emissions cuts would reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent by 2018.

John D. GrahamTraditionally, the federal government's fuel-efficiency efforts have addressed cars, SUVs, small vans, and pick-up trucks.

"It is encouraging that larger trucks will also be addressed in the future," said John D. Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Graham previously served under George W. Bush as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (2001-2006) where he chaired the interagency work group that revitalized the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.

According to Graham, the most promising fuel-saving technologies will vary depending on the size and use of the truck.

"For commercial urban pick-up and delivery vehicles, it's worth exploring a propulsion system that combines electric power and a diesel engine," he said. "On the other hand, large trucks used in highway travel that can be refueled regularly at designated centers may be appropriate for conversion from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas."

But, he said, before a 20-percent reduction of fuel consumption is mandated, a careful cost-benefit analysis needs to be prepared.

"If the costs of fuel efficiency prove to be greater than the financial and environmental benefits, the adverse economic impacts on the economy may be substantial," said Graham, co-author of "The Benefits and Costs of New Fuels and Engines for Light-Duty Vehicles in the United States," in Risk Analysis. "For example, the cost of truck transport is built into the prices of virtually all goods and services in the economy, from basic foods to construction materials. Thus, regulatory goals for fuel efficiency need to be set carefully."

According to Graham, efforts to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and traditional smog-forming pollutants (e.g., nitrogen dioxide) may be at odds with each other.

"Many of the technologies that reduce smog-related emissions from heavy trucks also consume energy and, therefore, reduce the fuel efficiency of trucks," he said. "Likewise, making greater use of the electrical grid to propel large trucks will increase the amount of smog-forming emissions at the power plant. Thus, the regulatory analyses of truck fuel efficiency need to identify and weigh carefully these tradeoffs."

Graham is the author of the recently released book Bush on the Home Front, which examines the legislative successes and failures of Bush's domestic policies.

He can be reached at 812-855-1432 or grahamjd@indiana.edu. For additional assistance, contact Debbie O'Leary at 812-327-0018 and devo99@indiana.edu.



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