The US is one of the world's largest polluters. We're second only to China when it comes to CO2 emissions. More than a quarter of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the transportation sector. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles make up 10 percent of the vehicles on the road, but account for a rapidly increasing 20 percent of the sector's GHG emissions. So it makes sense that the government would focus on those vehicles as an area where it could potentially make a meaningful difference regarding our environmental goals. To that end, and as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the EPA and the NHTSA have finalized their standards for fuel efficiency and GHG emissions for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Phase 2 is about affordable, emerging technologies for trucks, buses, and other commercial and work vehicles.

The Phase 2 program, as it is called, is meant to reduce fossil fuel consumption and harmful emissions – and, in turn, help to reduce climate change and its consequences – by "encouraging the development and deployment" of affordable, emerging technologies for trucks, buses, and other commercial and work vehicles.

The rollout of the Phase 2 standards begins for trailers for the 2018 model year, and for trucks and other vehicles in 2021. The standards apply only to new vehicles, and tighten every few years through the 2027 model year. For trailer manufacturers, this includes things like aerodynamics, lightweighting, and low rolling resistance tires. For vehicles, this also includes engine and transmissions improvements, anti-idling technology, and other features that improve efficiency. Owners are not required to retrofit older vehicles.

In terms of quantifiable environmental benefits, the Phase 2 standards should save 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions. Carbon pollution from semi trucks could decrease by as much as 25 percent per vehicle by 2027. For society as a whole, the EPA calculates the net benefits to be worth some $230 billion. That's eight times the cost of the program. "The actions we take today on climate change will help lessen the impacts on future generations," says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

While there's certainly going to be some grumbling from climate change deniers and opponents to what they feel is government overreach, patriots can take solace in the idea that reducing fuel use increases the country's energy security. This program is expected to save an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil. Operators should save money over time (with costs paid back in two to four years, according to the EPA). Overall, the standards are expected to translate into 170 billion dollars in fuel savings for American businesses.

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